By Patricia Sellers
October 26, 2011

Ginni Rometty is the next CEO of IBM, the company announced this afternoon.

With that news comes a stunning stat: America’s two largest tech companies will be headed by women.

Meg Whitman, who built eBay

, became CEO of Hewlett-Packard last month.

H-P

is No. 11 on the
Fortune 500
. IBM

is No. 18.

Both women spoke at the recent Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit. Rometty’s main message (and one that Whitman also embraces:): “Growth and comfort do not coexist,” she said.

Serious career risk has come with every promotion she’s taken, said Rometty, 54, who started at IBM in 1981 as a systems engineer, led the growth of IBM’s crucial services business and currently heads global sales and marketing. “When did I learn the most in my life, in my career? When I took a risk. It’s when I think I learned the most.”

Her promotion to CEO, set for January, will be risky since Rometty, who is No. 7 on the 2011 Most Powerful Women list, has huge shoes to fill following IBM chief Sam Palmisano.

Rometty says that Palmisano advised her: “Be first and be lonely.” Meaning: While most executives gravitate to spaces where somebody already is, you make bigger career leaps (as well as bigger money) by being a pioneer. That, she is.

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