Effective April 6, IBM's Ginni Rometty will step down from her position as CEO and remain the company's executive chairman until her retirement at the end of the year, IBM said in a statement.
Rometty, who became IBM's first female CEO in 2012, will be replaced by executive Arvind Krishna, who currently serves as the company's senior vice president for cloud and cognitive software.
With Rometty's departure on the horizon, Fortune reports that the number of women leading Fortune 500 companies will dwindle from 35 to 34. Though this number is slightly higher than the record 33 women who were listed in the annual Fortune 500 issue last May, the fact still remains that women hold less than 7% of Fortune 500 CEO seats, while women of color hold even less.
Following Indra Nooyi's departure from PepsiCo in 2018, Lisa Mann, CEO and founder of Think Marketing, appeared on CNBC's "Power Lunch" to talk about the need for corporate America to do a better job at supporting its dwindling pipeline of women leaders.
"Companies should be embracing their VPs and SVPs who are women and nurturing them to be leaders in business," said Mann, who once worked at PepsiCo under Nooyi's leadership.
Lisa Crooms-Robinson, professor of law and associate dean for academic affairs at Howard University, agrees with Mann and told CNBC Make It last year that the lack of women in leadership roles certainly has an impact on the gender and racial pay gap that exists today.
She explains that if women are not supported and promoted to executive positions, then they're less likely to make the high income of their male counterparts, who are overwhelmingly in leadership roles.
"For most organizations, [closing these gaps] would require a shift that goes beyond diversity committees and affinity groups," said Crooms-Robinson. "Committed organizational leadership at the very highest level is essential to make such a significant culture shift."
Rometty, who first joined IBM in 1981, understood the power of women in leadership and credits her experience at IBM with teaching her early on that there were no limits to what she could become.
"While there was never a watershed moment that I can remember saying to myself, 'Gee, I want to be CEO,' what I do have is a really strong memory throughout my whole career that anyone at IBM could be anything they wanted to be at IBM," she said in a 2019 interview with Fortune. "And that, to me, I think always gave me that feeling to just keep going because you can be whatever you want to be."
Following the news of Rometty's departure, several top CEOs praised the executive for her work at IBM, including General Motors CEO Mary Barra who referred to her as a "great partner and an inspiring leader."
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