IBM chief executive Ginni Rometty, left, and PepsiCo.'s chairwoman and...

IBM chief executive Ginni Rometty, left, and PepsiCo.'s chairwoman and chief executive, Indra Nooyi, topped Forbes' top 50 most powerful women list. Credit: IBM / PepsiCo.

Two veteran executives have smashed the corporate glass ceiling, pushing to the apex of Fortune's list of the 50 most powerful U.S. women and arguably putting the Hudson Valley in the vanguard of gender equality in business.

Taking the No. 1 slot on the list was IBM Chief Executive Virginia Rometty. The ranking in the magazine's Oct. 8 issue coincides with the 55-year-old Rometty's ascent to chairwoman of the board of directors on Oct. 1. Rometty, who rose through the sales force ranks of Armonk-based IBM, succeeded Sam Palmisano as CEO in January.

Right behind Rometty in the No. 2 position is Indra Nooyi, chairwoman and chief executive of PepsiCo. Nooyi, 56, has resisted Wall Street pressure to spin off the company's snack-food unit as the Purchase-based company grapples with top soft-drink maker Coca-Cola. Instead, the native of Madras, India, added at least a half-billion dollars to the company's 2012 marketing budget and put the silhouette of deceased pop king Michael Jackson on a billion cans of Pepsi.

Marsha Gordon, president and CEO of The Business Council of Westchester, said that the corporate culture within PepsiCo and IBM helped nurture women executives.

Though IBM was long known as a male bastion, Gordon said that Big Blue has changed.

"The old IBM is long gone," she said. "Today IBM is so dedicated to working with young women and encouraging them in the sciences."

Gordon said the rise of women through the corporate ranks is part of a natural evolution.

"It's no surprise that women have not only broken through the glass ceiling, but soared on top of it," she said.

Following the Westchester County duo are three chief executives from around the country: Meg Whitman of Hewlett-Packard, Irene Rosenfeld of Kraft Foods and Ellen Kullman of DuPont.

No. 8 on the list is Sheryl Sandberg. She is the 43-year-old chief operating officer of Facebook, founded by Dobbs Ferry's Mark Zuckerberg.

Fiftieth on the list is TV personality Oprah Winfrey, whose media empire has been floundering lately.

Representatives of IBM and PepsiCo did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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