Who is Tech?

Despite IBM’s new CEO, women still struggle to the top

Bob Moon Jan 2, 2012

Stacey Vanek Smith: You’ve come a long way, Big Blue. For the first time in its 100-year history, IBM is under the leadership of a woman — Virginia “Ginni” Rometty. She’s a long-time IBM executive who rose through the ranks. So, does she deserve special attention for being a female CEO?

Bob Moon has more.

Bob Moon: After all these years, why is this still newsworthy? Ilene Lang heads Catalyst, which tracks the progress of women in business. She was kind of anticipating my question.

Ilene Lang: I’ll be really happy when people don’t call me to comment on the first.

Yes, Rometty is the first woman to head IBM, but she’s joining other women CEOs — Meg Whitman at Hewlett-Packard, and Ursula Burns at Xerox. That’s progress, Lang says, but even though women comprise half the country’s workforce, only 18 lead any of the Fortune 500 companies.

Lang: It’s very hard for even very talented, experienced women to be taken seriously as contenders for the top jobs. 

Forrester Research analyst Bobby Cameron has seen firsthand how tough it can be for female execs climbing the tech industry ladder.

Bobby Cameron: I go to meetings all the time where most of the people in the room, senior execs in the technology side of both the vendors and the buyers are men.

Ilene Lang concedes not many women choose an engineering career path into the tech world, but that doesn’t explain why women in general struggle to land the top jobs.

Lang: Honestly, every field is male-dominated, every industry is male-dominated.

Lang says it can only help, though, when such an iconic name as IBM decides the best-qualified CEO is a woman.

I’m Bob Moon for Marketplace.

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