Is Intel Next to Get a Woman CEO?

The virtual ink was barely dry on the press release that announced {complink 2657|Intel Corp.} president and CEO Paul Otellini's plans to retire in May 2013, when a bevy of news stories popped up speculating about who his successor might be.

As surprising as the news was that Otellini was retiring early (he's 62 and could have stayed on another three years), there may be another surprise awaiting Intel shareholders. Two of the most commonly mentioned candidates to replace Otellini are women: Renée James, head of Intel's software business, and Diane Bryant, head of its datacenter and server business.

While still unlikely, the odds that a woman could be named CEO at Intel are much higher now than just a few years ago. This year's Fortune 500 listed 18 companies led by female CEOs, a record number and up from 12 in 2011. In the tech industry — where women are seriously under-represented — the last three years have seen females rise to the top spots at several major technology companies.

Ursula Burns was named CEO of {complink 6245|Xerox Corp.} in 2009 and became chairman in 2010. Although not new to the chief executive position, former eBay CEO and California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman became president and CEO of {complink 2376|Hewlett-Packard Co.} in September 2011. At the beginning of 2012, Virginia M. “Ginni” Rometty was appointed president and CEO of {complink 2470|IBM Corp.}. Just recently, on Oct. 1, she added the title of chairman of the board. Then there's Marissa Mayer, who jumped ship from Google and was named CEO and president of {complink 6518|Yahoo Inc.} in July 2012.

That's an impressive list, but notice that none are semiconductor companies. The chip business has always seemed even more male-dominated than other parts of the tech industry. I don't recall many female executives or even chip designers at semiconductor companies, much less CEOs. Intel has had five CEOs in its 44-year history, and all of them have been men.

Intel said it would look both internally and externally for the next CEO, but going outside the company is considered unlikely. If the company stays with an insider, there are five main contenders, says Arik Hesseldahl in his blog at All Things Digital.

The following three were promoted to the level of executive vice president in the same press release that announced Otellini's retirement, which was interpreted as indicating they were top contenders:

  • Brian Krzanich,
  • chief operating officer and head of worldwide manufacturing. He is considered the obvious choice, based on Intel's history of COOs moving into the CEO spot. Plus, manufacturing has always been a top priority at Intel.

  • Stacy Smith,
  • chief financial officer and director of corporate strategy. Like Otellini, Smith's background is business and not engineering, so if they are looking for an MBA type, Smith fits the bill.

  • Renée James,
  • general manager of Intel's software and services group. She is also chairman of McAfee and Wind River Systems, software companies that Intel acquired and made into subsidiaries. In fact, software has become a huge business for Intel. Revenue from software and services jumped from $264 million in 2010 to more than $1.8 billion for Intel last year. James is also a key player in Intel's relationship with Microsoft.

The other two frequently mentioned internal candidates are:

  • David Perlmutter,
  • executive vice president, general manager of the Intel Architecture Group, and chief product officer. He is responsible for all of Intel's platforms, including datacenters, desktops, laptops, handhelds, embedded devices, and consumer electronics. Of all the candidates, Perlmutter is the purest “semiconductor guy.” He was general manager of the microprocessor division, then general manager of the Mobility Group, where he oversaw mobile microprocessor development, including the Centrino and, more recently, the low-power Atom.

  • Diane Bryant,
  • vice president and general manager of Intel's sales in datacenters, cloud, and servers, called the Datacenter and Connected Systems Group. The group generated more than $10 billion in revenue in 2011. According to Bryant's bio on the Intel Website, “Intel now powers more than nine of every 10 servers sold worldwide.” Previously, she served as Intel's CIO.

Could Intel become the first semiconductor company to smash the glass ceiling? It would be refreshing to see the old boy network of the chip industry shaken up by a woman CEO. In fact, such male-dominated networks may have outlived their usefulness. Now that IBM and HP — both major Intel customers — are headed by women, the time may be right for a female CEO at Intel.

28 comments on “Is Intel Next to Get a Woman CEO?

    November 26, 2012

    Women are too smart to run a semiconductor company.  It is a path to an early grave 😉  Seriously though I think it would be a welcome change to see a female CEO.  

  2. Wale Bakare
    November 26, 2012

    How would the new CEO ( woman or man) make Intel gain upper hand in mobile access technology market likely be key objective for his/her responsibility.  Who would do the task?

  3. Nemos
    November 26, 2012

    It shouldn't be a surprise if we see another woman as a CEO in a big company even though David has a strong background from what I just read in your article and it looks like he will be the next CEO.(just a prediction)     

  4. Tam Harbert
    November 26, 2012

    @ Wale – yes, the ability to be successful in mobile is the key question. Perhaps that tilts the scale toward Perlmutter?

  5. _hm
    November 26, 2012

    Woman or man many not be as important criteria. Intel is huge organization and it needs true techocrat type of leader – may it be woman. I wish them all very best.



  6. Adeniji Kayode
    November 27, 2012


    I agree with you on that, Success has little to do with gender. I agree Intel needs a turn around.

  7. Taimoor Zubar
    November 27, 2012

    @Nemos: I agree. The gender is the last thing that can influence the decision in this case. What really matters is the skills and qualifications. I don't think gender makes any impact in your ability to deliver in today's times.

  8. Taimoor Zubar
    November 27, 2012

    “I agree Intel needs a turn around.”

    @adeniji: I'm not sure if what Intel needs is a turnaround. I think they're doing pretty fine with their strategy and much ahead of their competition. What they need to do is to sustain this growth and hopefully the new CEO can help in that.

  9. The Source
    November 27, 2012


    Many top officials at Intel's may think that the way to sustain Intel's strong position in the semiconductor market is to select Brian Krzanich, Intel's chief operating officer to the position of CEO.   He is currently running the company's supply chain and is familiar with all aspects of the company's strengths and challenges.   

  10. mfbertozzi
    November 28, 2012

    @WB: good question and I believe you are right, it doesn't matter the gender for trying to address the topic; anyway I am convinved that for achieving good results the proper mix of talent and perspective is a key of the success, then male point of view, alone, is not the only to consider if they want gain market, business and profit.

  11. Wale Bakare
    November 28, 2012

    The new CEO would have to keep Intel's market growth rate and/or even improve on its market segment in microprocessor. It's highly imperative to have core understanding of both the market's driver and conductor of this technology era – Internet and mobile devices. Every successful OEM has to build its market model around these two ingredients, i think.

  12. Patrick_yu
    November 28, 2012

    Tam, now you are making sense.  The subject of your article does not make any sense at all.  It is because Rene is simply NOT qualified.  Except for the internal politics, She achieved little in her years at Intel despite of the billions of investment.  On the other hand, David demonstrated consistently a vision, understandings of the technology and what the future looks like.  Don't, please don't arbitrarily use any title subject simply because it raises eyebrows.  Had Rene James demonstrated the quality of Bill Gates, she was qualified to lead Intel.   In fact, I believe that Rene should be fired.  This will save millions of dollars and the money can be better used as bonus to stimulate leading thoughts and technologies for Intel to better compete in the market!

  13. Taimoor Zubar
    November 28, 2012

    @The Source: Selecting the COO may have been a good option but the downside to that is the fact that he's someone from within the company and would most probably be following the policies that are already running. If you really need to shift gears and come up with out of the box stuff, it's always a good idea to bring someone from outside who can bring a fresh perspective with themselves.

  14. bolaji ojo
    November 28, 2012

    WY, I don't think Tam Harbert was advocating for any particular candidate to lead Intel and certainly not simply because anyone of them is a woman. I believe what she tried to do was note the names of the people being considered to lead the company, which in this case included two women. That in itself is history.

    If a woman was appointed to head a semiconductor company as big as Intel, you can bet it won't be because of her sex but simply based on qualifications and the company's belief that she could help make the company a better competitor. The same criteria that would apply in the case of a man would be used for women.

  15. bolaji ojo
    November 28, 2012

    TaimoorZ, I believe that's what Intel may be planning although I also think they will eventually still settle for a known individual rather than bring somebody in from outside the company. The very fact that they are considering external candidates may be enough to help current internal candidates understand that the era of business as usual may be over at Intel. It's a pressure tactic in my opinion.

  16. bolaji ojo
    November 28, 2012

    Wale, The problem Intel faces is that it is a hardware manufacturer in a market that's increasingly focused more on total solutions, including software. It is a juggernaut in its market and customers don't like the idea of it dominating in new market segments.

  17. Patrick_yu
    November 28, 2012

    Today, many of the CEOs are practically “criminals”.  Most try to reward themselves as much as possible, while the livings of the employees are simply disposable to their benefit under the sugar coat of “shareholders' value”.  The most criminal of the last 10 years is probably the last CEO of HP.  The whole HP Board of Directors, if they have any shame at all, should have resigned and returned all the compensation they were given in their past tenure.   Are all these capitalism justified?  Who have gained?  On the other hand, the current and the past 2 CEOs at Intel consistently demonstrated their values to the shareholders and did relative much more to keep the livings of the employees intact.  I hope the incoming one tries to keep up the good tradition and does'nt follow the example of HP!

  18. itguyphil
    November 28, 2012

    But what real difference does it make if the CEO is a female?

  19. Patrick_yu
    November 28, 2012

    In principle, no difference.  In practice, no difference.  CEO should be judged by how he/she treats employees, how the company is built for the future (i.e. long term), but not how the finance are being massaged to maximize personal gain.  By this standard, very few of the top-100 corporations' CEOs can get a pass.

  20. Tam Harbert
    November 28, 2012

    As Bolaji noted, I'm not advocating for any particular candidate, just noting that a couple of women are being included in the reports on who might follow Otellini. My own opinion is that Intel is too insular and might do better if they brought in someone from the outside. But many people seem to think that's unlikely.


  21. itguyphil
    November 29, 2012

    I get all that.

    But I am wondering if there really is a basis for wanting male CEOs over female?

  22. itguyphil
    November 29, 2012

    So then is it just an unspoken rule that makes recruiters shy away from really good female candidates?

  23. Houngbo_Hospice
    November 29, 2012


    So then is it just an unspoken rule that makes recruiters shy away from really good female candidates?

    What a question. There should be a reason to that. But I do wonder sometimes why we are so concerned about women being CEOs or not. Do they need any help at all if they are really qualified for the position?

  24. Mr. Roques
    November 29, 2012

    What they need is someone who is ready to move INTEL from normal desktops to mobile devices. I know they started, but they were a late-entry competitor. ARM has the lead in tablets and mobiles.

    I'm pretty sure that mobiles have surpassed PCs by now, and while those chips cost a lot less, they are the future.

  25. itguyphil
    November 29, 2012

    I'm not saying it's blatant. But someone still has to make a decision when it comes to who gets hired among a talented pool of candidates.

    I am simply questioning the idea that a male CEO is preferred  over a female.

  26. itguyphil
    November 29, 2012

    That's the point that I'm trying to bring to the table!

  27. SP
    November 29, 2012

    That would be a news. Women are good multitaskers and equally sharp decision makers. I am for it 🙂

  28. itguyphil
    November 30, 2012

    I love these types of gender relations conversations.

    They can go many different ways very quickyl!

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