Former IBM CEO Ginni Rometty’s new book recounts her father leaving, her decision to not have kids, and pressure to lose weight

Ginni Rometty, former Chairman and CEO of IBM.
Jens Umbach

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! California calls it quits with Walgreens over its abortion pill stance, Yum China Holdings seizes on China’s post-COVID boom, and former IBM CEO Ginni Rometty shares her personal side in her new book Good Power: Leading Positive Change in Our Lives, Work, and World, which is out today. Have a great Tuesday!

– The personal side. In her new book Good Power: Leading Positive Change in Our Lives, Work, and World, Ginni Rometty describes arriving at IBM as an entry-level systems engineer in 1981. The company had a “buttoned-up culture,” well-known enough that Rometty purchased a navy-blue pinstripe suit before her first day.

Forty-two years and one CEO job later, Rometty is on the other side of that formal culture. In her new book, published today, she shares personal stories that shaped her professional life.

“I knew that if I didn’t do it, it would not help people,” Rometty told me of her decision to share her personal life.

“Good Power: Leading Positive Change in our Lives, Work, and World,” by Ginni Rometty
Courtesy of Harvard Business Review Press

Rometty tells readers how her father left their family when she was 16. Her mother was forced to support four kids outside of Chicago without a college degree or any work experience. Rometty took on the responsibility of caring for her younger siblings—which she says is one reason she never had children of her own. Watching her mother go back to school as an adult inspired Rometty’s support for continuing education programs and hiring employees from nontraditional career paths.

She shares her experience with her weight; colleagues in the 1980s told her to lose weight, saying that her physical appearance was holding back her career. While Rometty acknowledges such a comment would be inappropriate in today’s corporate environment, she says the advice was “well-meaning.”

She reflects on her mixed feelings about being the “first female” CEO of IBM, a job she held between 2012 and 2020. She tried to avoid the label for a long time but ultimately came to the same conclusion she did about IBM’s struggles to evolve from a legacy business to a modern tech company. “If I didn’t define who the company was, other people would define it for me,” she remembers; the same applied to her own experience. 

Rometty opens the book with the story of her father leaving her family. The formative experience influenced nearly everything that followed, including the CEO’s determination to succeed and rise to the top of corporate America. As she navigated challenges as IBM’s CEO, traveling constantly, overseeing complex transactions, and attempting to turn around a struggling business, her family’s experience grounded her. “That, to me, set the bar for what bad was. No matter how bad other things got, I’d say it’s not that bad—I can keep working through this.”

She hopes that people come away from her book with a new understanding of how to do hard things—with a positive impact. “You have to reveal things,” she says, “for people to learn.”

Emma Hinchliffe

The Broadsheet is Fortune’s newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women. Today’s edition was curated by Kinsey Crowley. Subscribe here.


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