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.


is No. 11 on the
Fortune 500

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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