Gini Dietrich

Augusta National Faces Scrutiny on “No Women” Rule

By: Gini Dietrich | April 5, 2012 | 

I don’t know where to begin with this one. I’m astounded.

Did you know Augusta National Golf Club does not allow women to join as members? And did you know they only began allowing African American members in 1990?

Did something happen last night and I woke up in 1912?

Does this really happen in 2012?

Yet, here we are. Twenty-two years later and we’re still having this conversation. 

The reason it has come to my attention is because IBM, a major PGA tournament sponsor, promoted Virginia “Ginni” Rometty to CEO in January.

And she’s not allowed to join the club.

What’s a company to do? Continue giving money to an organization that doesn’t allow its top executive in or pull back the sponsorship?

This isn’t the first time IBM, along with Toyota and Honda, have pressured Augusta. The last time was in 1990 when they each pulled their television advertising during the PGA tournament that year’s tournament was played at the then whites-only Shoal Creek, outside of Birmingham.

Augusta National subsequently ended its racial barrier, citing both PR and ethical reasons.

But they’re not backing down on inviting Rometty to join, even though the last four chief executives of IBM (all male) have been invited.

Billy Payne, the Club’s chairman said it’s not up to him and the executive team, but at the discretion of their members.

All issues of membership remain the private deliberations of the membership. That statement remains accurate. We don’t talk about our private deliberations. We especially don’t talk about them when a named candidate is part of the question.

We don’t know the “named candidate” is Rometty, but all national media is assuming that’s the case. And no one will comment on whether or not they’ll join the 21st Century and invite her.

In the meantime, IBM is faced with figuring out if potentially alienating customers outweighs the advantages of being part of such a prominent sports event.

I don’t know. If it were me, I wouldn’t want my company to support an organization that is so deliberately discriminatory, no matter how steeped in tradition it is. It’s not about money or PR or awareness. It’s about what’s right.

Then again, I’m a woman so of course I’m biased.

What would you do?

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • yourgreatlifetv

    @ginidietrich Something about a sport predominantly made up of white male, self-centered, jerks might have something to do 🙂

    • ginidietrich

      @yourgreatlifetv It’s astounding to me. This is 2012.

      • yourgreatlifetv

        @ginidietrich I agree with you 100% it is sad.

        • ginidietrich

          @yourgreatlifetv I guess women aren’t human beings after all. Who knew?

        • yourgreatlifetv

          @ginidietrich on a lighter note, why anyone (man or woman) wants to join that pretentious excuse of a “club” is a good question too hehe

        • ginidietrich

          @yourgreatlifetv I agree with that!

  • meghanspork

    @ginidietrich @spinsucks Talked about this case in both a PR & SOC class. I agree with you, an example of cultural domination at its worst

    • ginidietrich

      @meghanspork I can’t believe we’re even having this conversation in 2012. I’m astounded.

  • djordon

    @ginidietrich This comes up yearly prior to The Masters. Has a spokesperson ever said why this policy is still in place? #Wow

    • ginidietrich

      @djordon Yeah … I found a quote I put in the blog post. “It’s a membership decision” is pretty much all they’ll say

      • djordon

        @ginidietrich Oh THAT quote I saw. I just believe that such exclusion warrants a better explanation. It’s 2012!

        • ginidietrich

          @djordon It’s total baloney.

  • This makes you wonder what else is out there. The only reason we know this is because it is a major, major event, and a huge company. It’s under the spotlight. What else is out there that we don’t see. Pretty crazy.

    • ginidietrich

       @KenMueller I really don’t understand it. This is 2012. I can’t believe we’re even having this conversation.

  • samtaracollier

    @ginidietrich @spinsucks I’m shocked this still happens. Really????

    • ginidietrich

      @samtaracollier Oh yes.

  • Well, if it was SYDCON that was sponsoring the event & I was not invited, I can say without a doubt we would withdraw sponsorship.  Not just for my sake, but for the message it would send to not only my daughters by my son as well.  
    There is no reason for this rule (IMHO, there never was a valid reason for it). And with the increase in women golfers, Augusta needs to join society and leave the discrimination in the past.

    • ginidietrich

       @sydcon_mktg I don’t know whose decision it is at IBM, but if Rometty can make that decision on her own, I’ll be sorely disappointed if she doesn’t. Only the sponsors can make them change…as was demonstrated in 1990.

  • KatrinaLaflin

    And if a man owns an equity share of a country club, his wife or female offspring are not allowed to inherit that membership should he pass away. They are forced to sell it back to the club…at least that’s was the case at a local club that did not allow women to own equity partnerships. Women were allowed a social membership. It cost less but women could play golf at specific times and have access to the pool, tennis courts and dining room. 

    • KatrinaLaflin

      And to answer your question, No, if I were CEO of a big company I would not want my company supporting sexism, racism or any other form of blatant discrimination.

      • ginidietrich

         @KatrinaLaflin It really astounds me this still happens. When Payne was asked by a reporter what he tells his granddaughters, he said, “Those are personal conversations.” Really? In 2012 it’s OK to support something that doesn’t allow your daughters and granddaughters? 

  • AllisonLinney

    @kmueller62 I go with Dad because he’s been a scorekeeper for 47 years so it’s a deep family tradition. I believe women will join one day.

    • kmueller62

      @AllisonLinney hopefully soon

      • AllisonLinney

        @kmueller62 Women joined the score keeping group many years ago. That was progress, but we still have a long way to go.

        • kmueller62

          @AllisonLinney sure do. i think the public eye on things will speed things up

  • sherrilynne

    I vacillate between feelings of  shock and hopelessness when I see news like this.  I’m shocked to think such stuff still goes one.  I am resigned the fact that women will not achieve true equality in my lifetime. Just yesterday the local news did a whole feature on a girl that works in a Mr Lube…the story could have been right out of 1972.  Sigh. 

    • ginidietrich

       @sherrilynne We’ve come so far yet we haven’t progressed at all. It really makes me angry. I guess I’ll just shutter my business and stay home to cook my husband meals and keep the house clean.

  • JoeCascio

    Augusta is a private club and falls under the freedom-of-association precedents of law. Any private club (which is a legal definition) is free to restrict its membership any way it sees fit. There are female-only clubs (health clubs, especially), Christian-only clubs, Jewish-only clubs and maybe even red-head-only or tall-and-skinny-only clubs. These are not all golf clubs. And to KatrinaLaflin’s point, not all country clubs are male-only. 
    Years ago, there were many restricted membership country clubs, mostly based on religion or ethnicity. Catholics or Jews or non-WASPs would set up their own clubs when they couldn’t get into a club that already existed.
    Over time, these kind of clubs have gradually disappeared as fewer and fewer people want to be associated with a club that discriminates. And this is what is happening at Augusta National right now. And this is exactly how it should happen. Eventually, they will have to yield to societal pressure.
    I think people should be careful about invoking the law to force Augusta to open its doors to women. Freedom of association is an important liberty all citizens enjoy, including women. 

    •  @JoeCascio in 2003 Martha Burke threatened to protest outside the gates of the club during the tournament but was denied a permit to do so. That year the broadcast ran with no commercials. That format continued into 2004. In the end, I don’t think the club will be pressured to admit women, because there is no leverage to do so.

      • ginidietrich

         @Sean McGinnis  @JoeCascio And she was interviewed yesterday and pretty much said she has no leverage, but IBM and the other sponsors do. Having no leverage does not make it right. It’s discrimination. Plain and simple.

        •  @ginidietrich  @JoeCascio My point is the club doesn’t care. They will have the tournament with or without sponsors and with  or without commercial support. That’s the lack of leverage. The law is pretty clear on this – there is no way to compel them to open up membership (no governmental leverage) so all that’s left is societal leverage because there is n business leverage.

        • Sixtwotwo

          @Sean McGinnis @ginidietrich @JoeCascio There’s always business leverage. What if equipment or apparel manufacturers like Nike came out to say they don’t want any of their athletes playing Augusta as long as the membership discrimination continues? Would be a different tournament if a decent percentage of the field who’s associated with someone like Nike or Callaway don’t condone the club’s actions. But, money talks and we know what walks, so don’t expect change to come soon.

    • ginidietrich

       @JoeCascio That doesn’t make it right. We shouldn’t be discriminating in any form and I see this as such. I haven’t seen anything that says the law is invoked to force them to open their doors to women. Rather, one of their largest sponsors is run by a woman so it’s up to them to pressure the Club. Not the law.

  • HerzogIND

    @ginidietrich Let me guess. You don’t follow golf much. 🙂 U ask if u just woke up in 1912…u have read the non-golf news lately, right? 🙂

    • ginidietrich

      @HerzogIND I swear something very wrong is going on

      • HerzogIND

        @ginidietrich Something very wrong indeed.

  • While I do find it astounding that these sorts of things continue, Augusta *is* a private club and can continue to restrict its membership. I’m genuinely interested to see if Rometty will appear wearing the green coat.  
    The amount of $$ coming into Augusta during Masters’ Week with sponsorships, television rights and the rest is enough to subtly influence a change in a policy somewhere down the road. 

    • ginidietrich

       @jasonkonopinski I understand they’re private and they can do this. It’s certainly not against the law. I just think it’s ridiculous this stuff is happening today.

      •  @ginidietrich It is nonsensical, tradition notwithstanding. 

  • I shake my head at how antiquated the thinking is. Every year, there are cries for them to open it to women, but NOW it’s really hit the mainstream because of Rommety and I absolutely love it. I love that as of yesterday early, Rommety hadn’t commented yet because “She’s busy doing her job.”
    You know what guys? FIGURE IT OUT. Are you kidding me? And are none of these men married? I’d love to hear from their wives. 

    • ginidietrich

       @Lisa Gerber And what do they tell their daughters? I’m sorry, honey. It’s tradition. BS.

      •  @ginidietrich Yep they say ohhh you can do whatever you want honey but why don’t you just marry a rich man have him take care of you and let him do the golfing. We don’t want you to ruin your nails or your hair golfing, after all if you’re too masculine you could end up being a spinster. 

        • ginidietrich

           @rachaelseda I need a drink.

        •  @ginidietrich  @rachaelseda Did you see that press conference with the Chair of whatever committee? A reporter asked what he tells his grand-daughter, and he said those conversations are private. Another reporter said, “what should I tell MY daughter?” and he said, “I don’t know you’re daughter.” What a spin. 

    •  @Lisa Gerber I think it’s sad that it took a female becoming the CEO of a big company to bring it to this point BUT at the same time I’m glad that she has brought more attention to this despicably tolerated behavior.

  • 41racer

    @lisagerber do women want in just because it appears to be a barrier? #augusta #pga

  • 41racer

    @lisagerber why don’t women start their own exclusive? Augusta is a business that caters to men; shouldn’t women have the same? #augusta

  • rustyspeidel

    I was gonna comment, but I just can’t. 

    • ginidietrich

       @rustyspeidel Why not?

      • rustyspeidel

         @ginidietrich Because I’m a white male?

        • ginidietrich

           @rustyspeidel Hasn’t stopped anyone else!

        •  @ginidietrich  @rustyspeidel I’m really a small Asian woman. This whole persona is just one big sham. #smokeandmirrors

        •  @ginidietrich  @rustyspeidel In all seriousness, here’s a question to consider: has the current membership of Augusta National made any move to change the club’s charter?  Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are both notable members.  

  • Actually, beyond IBM, I’m wondering why the PGA has a stop on the tour at Augusta. The PGA has encouraged minorities and women to learn the game of golf. Yet they still allow Augusta to sponsor a tournament at a site that discriminates against women and only recently allowed minorities. What’s up with that?

    • ginidietrich

       @billquiseng You know, THAT is a very good question. I wish I’d included it in the blog post. Thank you.

    •  @billquiseng YES this is exactly what I was thinking! It’s despicable and I think there needs to be some honess on the PGA. 

  • I agree with @billquiseng . What is the PGA doing?! If I were IBM, I’d be addressing the PGA with the issue. 
    If there was no change, I’d yank that sponsorship. And where’s Jessie Jackson in all this? This IS discrimination, isn’t it? 
    Shame on the PGA, and Shame on Augusta! 

    • ginidietrich

       @janbeery I think Jesse Jackson is busy with yesterday’s Skittles issue.

      •  @ginidietrich hahaha I just laughed, out loud!!!!
        Seriously! This infuriates me! I just shared this with the Professional Women in Health Care Group! So, Where is the glass ceiling? 
        I hope IBM yanks that sponsorship! 

        • ginidietrich

           @janbeery Sorry…I couldn’t resist. 

        •  @ginidietrich  @janbeery that made me laugh, too. 

  • I almost went off the rails on this, focusing on the cultural problems rather than answering your question. I do believe how facets of many cultures treat women is a huge problem today but I will focus on the individual question. The PGA should select venues that have a better track record and not reward the ones that have discriminatory practices. IBM should carefully consider where their sponsorship money goes. As a large and successful US based company they have a opportunity to provide an example. Certainly neither one is currently legally obligated to change but there is the law and there is the greater good. Which side do they want to be on? 

    • ginidietrich

       @hackmanj Thank you. I agree. Wholeheartedly. I also am OK with your going off the rails on the cultural issue. I’m really angry about this stuff. 

    •  @hackmanj Thanks for saying, that because I don’t know enough about the tournament to understand how the venue is selected. I thought perhaps Augusta started and hosted it – who knows? So I didn’t want to spout off about something I wasn’t knowledgeable. (for a change).
      I completely agree with your statement – the PGA is showing support for this kind of behavior by having the premier tournament there. 

  • HerzogIND

    Oh, @ginidietrich i’m just not that surprised. As someone noted below, we’ve already been through this at Augusta. Until big business decides it’s an issue and members pull out – – don’t expect any change at Augusta. 

    • ginidietrich

       @HerzogIND Doesn’t make it right. It’s sad it takes the leadership of a woman at a Fortune 500 company to get it mainstream again.

  • ladylaff

    I’m afraid the only voice that talks here is money so yes, I think IBM hast to pull the sponsorship.   Otherwise what kind of message does that send to all of IBM’s smart women?  This made the top morning news is London, by the way so it’s not really doing their PR any good.

    • ginidietrich

       @ladylaff VERY interesting that it’s making its way around the globe. Good! I hope it does something to encourage them to pull their sponsorship.

  • Carl_PR

    I’d be out of that sponsorship in a heartbeat. If there’s a contractual obligation, I’d plan to be out of that contract ASAP.

    • ginidietrich

       @Carl_PR Me. Too.

      •  @ginidietrich @Carl_PR problem is this event has been going on for so long anyone sponsoring knows this is an issue and decided to sponsor anyway. IBM doesn’t need to sponsor.
        But if I was Ginni I would tell them they will not broadcast the event until they allow women. And when they say ‘How can you stop us from broadcasting’ she will respond ‘We are IBM we are the internet….try me’

        • ElissaFreeman

           @HowieSPM  @ginidietrich  @Carl_PR
           “We are IBM and we are the internet…try me.”  That? Is the line of the day, my friend!  I guess it comes down to answering the question: who cares? Do thousands of men who worship the Masters from their living rooms care? No. Do the members of Augusta care? No.
          Does IBM care they are sending a definitive message to their female employees and their families that they’re fine with such ancient, sexist thinking care? Damn straight they should.  Ginni Rometty has an opportunity to be ‘queenmaker’ here…she should grab that scepter and hit Billy Payne over the head with it.

        • ginidietrich

           @ElissaFreeman  @HowieSPM  @Carl_PR What Elissa said.

  • Well, the President has now weighed in on this very topic, @ginidietrich .

    • ginidietrich

       @sydcon_mktg YEAH!!! One more reason to love our President!

      • @ginidietrich @sydcon_mktg I didn’t like the prez when he was elected. I’m still not sure if I’m thrilled with his job, but now actually do like him. The two moments that transformed my opinion were when he fist pounded that janitor and when he broke out that Al Green song That was so dope!

        •  @SociallyGenius  @ginidietrich  @sydcon_mktg if I was Obama for every debate every question I would just respond ‘I killed Osama’.

        • ginidietrich

           @SociallyGenius  @ginidietrich  @sydcon_mktg Did you see the picture of him stepping on the back of the scale when one of his aides was on it? So it looked like the guy weighed more than he did. I laughed. Really hard.

        •  @HowieSPM  @SociallyGenius  @ginidietrich Obama needs to hire you right now! Seriously his speech writers could just right that all election cycle long & call it a day!

        •  @HowieSPM  @SociallyGenius  @ginidietrich  @sydcon_mktg That should be like a walk off home run, right? Scoreboard……….

  • Where do you think the term “The Good Ol’ Boys Club” came from. I’ve thought this was a joke for years considering women have now played on the men’s tour and I think Golf even has a a ladies professional golf association, go figure. Interesting thought, if the Masters happened to be played in a Northern City, like a burb in Chicago, do you think this club would still be in tact? Lastly, to answer your question, i’d encourage all sponsers who employ women to pull their support and let the Masters foot the bill for the millions and millions in prize money, along with The Hair Club for Men. Winner will get a green Jacket, $1000, and a year’s supply of rogaine!

    • ginidietrich

       @SociallyGenius But a Good Ol’ Boys Club in 2012? I think the thing that bothers me the most about it is we FINALLY get some women in leadership positions in the biggest companies but, unlike their counterparts, they can’t do business on the golf course or in the club because they’re not allowed. If I swore publicly, I’d have a few to say about this.

      • @ginidietrich well I’ll swear publicly and you can delete it if you want.. you’re right, It’s bullshit! And btw, you were so worked up in that comment that I ducked under my desk. Remember, I didn’t say I endorsed the GOBC, just reiterating its origin 🙂

    •  @SociallyGenius Hey, easy on the Hair Club; how do you think I keep mine amazingly coiffed? Southern Good Ol’ Boys…………why I never heard of such a thing…. let’s get @ginidietrich to swear publicly……….I want to hear a #@mf&6%&^:+# or two………

      • @bdorman264 I didn’t say it was bad! It was just one of the first other male “clubs” I thought of. Totally agree about @ginidietrich she needs to vent a little bit and nothing would be as therapeutical as dropping a few F-Bombs toward the likes of Fuzzy Zoeller and Billy Payne!!

  • They are a bunch of whiny wimpy bigoted oppressive men in my opinion. Who would want to be a member?  I love women. So  I wouldn’t want to be associated with them. What needs to happen is golfers have to be pressured not to play. If they have no golfers they have no tournament. Not sure why the players don’t boycott.
    Why don’t the power women start their women’s only club? In 100 years when women rule big business (3 PhDs to every 2 for men being earned today) the Masters will be at a women’s only club and the players will be lead down the entrance way like prize horses before the kentucky derby. And the women can inspect their hinds and jowls and then bet on who will win. (Sounds like the next JK Rowling book should be about this!)

  • GoSeeWrite

    Doesn’t bug me in the least. They are a private, non-governmental entity. They are free to allow any members they want. To take it to the other side — would you support someone coming in and making the Junior League accept men? Or any of the other hundreds of organizations that are female-only (like healthy clubs, as cited by someone earlier) or Latino-only or African-American-only or whatever. 

    • ginidietrich

       @GoSeeWrite I have zero problem with the Junior League accepting men. I don’t know any men who would want to join, which is where I see the difference. There are plenty of women who golf. But the issue really is that IBM is now run by a woman and, though they’ve invited the past four IBM CEOs, they won’t invite her. That’s discriminatory. 

    • ginidietrich

       @GoSeeWrite I don’t know why your comment is all garbled. I’m trying to fix it!

      •  @ginidietrich  @GoSeeWrite Probably because you were re-instating my points……….

  • Pingback: Are Women's Rights Still an Issue? by @janbeery | KBK Communications()

  • What? Where’s the story here? Maybe it’s because the men walk around naked in the clubhouse and sit those naked asses on the Naugahyde couches. And if they are all pasty, fat, white guys it wouldn’t be good for their ego. 
    Money talks and the golfing community at this level certainly has money. If they can tell the sponsors ‘no thanks’ and still put on the Masters; then there are some very deep pockets in that crowd. 
    Like Howie said below; I don’t want to belong to any club that’s a dude-fest, I gotsta have women around so I can be charming, right? On the other hand, if it’s a private club I guess they should be able to set the parameters. Maybe I’d feel stronger about it if I was a woman………..IDK…………..
    BTW – speaking of membership; where did my points go? I used to be the big dog around here and last time I commented it showed -0- points; WTH? I saw Howie HouseMusic had double my previous number; did he get my points? 

    •  @bdorman264  Howie HouseMusic Howie got your points. I heard he has a “Women Rule”  t-shirt! 
      You’re right, it’s a private club, they can choose their members. To your point also, they have deep pockets and don’t really need the Masters. It gets a little muddy when you have a female CEO to the key sponsor’s leadership team. There’s where it gets a little muddy.
      Do women Work there?! 
      It’s a debatable topic for sure.
      I AM still surprised that the ACLU hasn’t added their two cents. Hmmmm! 

      •  @janbeery  Howie HouseMusic Howie’s gone feminist now that he has a steady girl friend………otherwise she won’t feed him……..
        Interesting thought; I’m guessing women do work there in some capacity, especially if they want anything done.
        I think the head of the ACLU has a membership and HE doesn’t want to rock the boat. 

    • ginidietrich

       @bdorman264  Your points are still there. It shows 1,863. Don’t you worry. You’ll still get that pencil.

      •  @ginidietrich Whew, I was starting to stress………

        •  @bdorman264  @ginidietrich @janbeery but what if I went completely non-politically correct here on Spin Sucks and told the Augusta National and tell the members that by not allowing women that confirms they are all gay? Yes I know this offends gay people whom I admire and don’t want to piss off. But I bet half the members are religious conservatives and worth pissing off in that manner.
          I still think this is the masters and thus why it is an issue. but I am sure if enough people boycotted the brands who endorse the event, the players etc things would change.
          But do we care if the club changes? No in fact we don’t care about the club itself. But the PGA should move the tournament to somewhere cooler like Burningman.

  • Maybe I am a bad guy or just distracted by my own stuff but I am just not upset about this.  I don’t golf or belong to any country clubs and I tease those of my friends who do just because I can.
    But some of this feels to me as if it is of interest because it is forbidden and for no other reason. You want to pay ridiculous amount of money for the privilege to go play with some guys little white balls, go ahead.

    • ginidietrich

       @TheJackB That isn’t the issue to me. I don’t golf either so I don’t care about it being a golf course. What I do care about is we finally are getting women into leadership positions in some of the biggest companies in the world and they’re not allowed to be with their peers. Some equality.

      •  @ginidietrich I get it. Really, I have thought about it from my daughter’s perspective. I remember during the last election when she and her brother asked why people cared about Obama being black. It was one of those moments where I knew things had changed.
        Anyway, the only way to make it change is to pull the money and convince the golfers not to play. One won’t work without the other or so I see it,

  • Not trying to start a political debate here but when I heard this on the news, I couldn’t get this thought out of my head — “this is just another attack on women”. How did 2012 turn into the year of the war against women?
    And I’m with the others … good to hear the President comment on this one. Best line from WH Press Secretary Carney responded. “We are kind of long past the time when women should be excluded from anything.”

    • ginidietrich

       @penneyfox We are totally long past the time where we’re excluded. It makes me nuts.

      •  @ginidietrich  @penneyfox I’d have to agree with you on this one Gini. 
        Yes, it’s a club, yes they do have the right to choose. The insinuation of the exclusion is a tough nut to swallow seeing as how it is so specific. It’s not based on portfolio or location, it’s based on gender. That takes us back a long way. 
        We hurt ourselves, I think, when we just except such blatant discrimination. Not ok. 

  • shannonq

    This doesn’t bother me at all. There are groups for men, groups for women. This one happens to have become massively popular to the extent that IBM wants to sponsor it, and the company did so knowing about Augusta’s regulations. In fact, they are sponsoring because they want to reach the white men that watch the Masters. She became CEO without relying on golf course politics, I’m sure she’ll be just fine. 

    • ginidietrich

       @shannonq I’m kind of surprised to read this. It’s really bothersome to me that four IBM CEOs have been invited to join, especially because of their sponsorship, but the buck stops with Rometty because she’s a woman. I hope she takes the opportunity to stand up for the women who work at IBM and pulls the sponsorship. Perhaps it won’t do anything for Augusta, but it will show this gender inequality has to stop.

      • shannonq

         @ginidietrich I’m not sure what you are surprised about? You wrote a post asking for opinions and then when someone holds a different one, you reply that it surprises you. I appreciate your position, I just don’t agree with you. 

  • WHAT!!! This is ridiculous. IBM should pull the sponsorship in principle of the matter – then (I hope) Ginni should decline the invitation to join as she has other better things to do than to be the pioneering woman golf club member…..unless she had 20 female friends who join too and really make a difference there! 1990 for African Americans – oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!

    • ginidietrich

       @Shona Easton Right? It really is the principle of the matter. I don’t play golf so I wouldn’t really care about not being invited. But I wouldn’t want my company sponsoring an organization that is so discriminatory. 

  • There are a number of other golf courses that either don’t allow female members or allow females to play the course. I’m not really bothered by it. If Augusta was the only one, I would feel differently, but it’s not the only one. Just my two cents. 

    • ginidietrich

       @Maranda It’s not that there are other courses who don’t allow women, or even that there are organizations that are focused on individual groups of people. It’s that we FINALLY are getting women in the top leadership positions in the world’s biggest companies and then they hit this barrier. It’s the principle. If you want my sponsorship money, you’d better allow me to visit your Club, as an equal member. This is 2012.

      •  @ginidietrich  @Maranda for me their position on black members (until 1990, that’s not that long ago and speaks to the mindset) is particularly damning. I am glad we’re talking more about this, the comments here are definitely a refreshing respite from the stuff I see elsewhere around these types of issues.

        •  @hackmanj  @ginidietrichI question the timing of this issue as when she was denied her membership, no one seemed to care. It’s topical because of the Masters, and because people are searching the Masters. Augusta has a highly respected reputation not only as a golf club but also as a part of the community. 
          Is it antiquated? Yes. But it’s been their policy for years and still IBM chose to give away their sponsorship dollars and now there’s an outrage. They knew what this policy was and gave them their money in spite of that rule – it’s not like IBM decided to sponsor them the night before the Masters started. 

  • NancyCawleyJean

    Absolutely appalling. I cannot believe in this day and age that this still occurs. Thanks for bringing this to light, Gini!

    • ginidietrich

       @NancyCawleyJean I’m surprised at the different responses here. It certainly has made me think about things a bit differently, but I still believe it’s the principle of the matter. There should no longer be a gender or race gap.

      •  @ginidietrich  @NancyCawleyJean should women be allowed a club and not allow men? Just curious.I say this because there is a line between discrimination and the freedom to create groups of our choosing.
        And we already segregate in sports legally.
        Is this an issue only because it is the Masters?

        •  @HowieSPM  @ginidietrich  @NancyCawleyJean Hey Howie, I agree there are certainly grey areas. In this case consider that people were excluded based on ethnicity until 1990. For me that really made it fall under a different category.

  • PFitz

    Gini, it sounds like you woke up in 1972; the situation represents a paradox and the CEO should do nothing, for two rational reasons. First, because her obligation in this matter is only to the shareholders of IBM, not to her “sisters” or to moral standards. This is business, the only question can be; does this sponsorship negatively impact shareholder value? If the answer is yes, then she is compelled to act, and terminate the sponsorship. If the answer is no, or uncertain, then she might ask her marketing group to provide a basis for or against the deal. On the other hand, if she is smart enough to manage IBM and certainly that has been evaluated. Why would she want to be a part of such a group?
    The very last thing any woman should want is for her to take an action promised in anything but rational thinking lest the tag of emotional woman be applied, correctly. Maybe best that the male, former IBM CEO’s resign their memberships to Augusta;really, they were earned with shareholder dollars. Undoubtedly, some of those shareholders are women.

    •  @PFitz  I would completely disagree that her only obligation is to the share holders. We are all role models and our actions have implications beyond those with financial interests in what we do. IBM share holders would be well served by her leadership in social and cultural issues. In an environment where large companies are often demonized for their activities there are many ways that their leadership can address that stigma.

      • PFitz

         If she wants to stay as CEO of IBM she cannot make decisions otherwise; she is bound by corporate governance to do only that.  There is a difference between moral and ethical behavior. She is bound to be ethical and probably prohibited from being moralistic in guiding IBM as a CEO. This comes up in healthcare all the time; it  allows CEO’s to make morally repugnant decisions about care provision without having to provide any other answer. 
        My moral opinion is not to impose my will on others and expect the same from them. But that is an answer to a question that a CEO cannot face.

    • StorchMurphy

       @PFitz I see where you are going, but I believe a CEO has a moral obligation beyond shareholder benefit. For instance, a CEO of a company the prominence of IBM should reflect on and be guided by what is right for both shareholders and the direction of the company.  Supporting Augusta may make good sense in appeasing shareholders (or maybe not as I assume many would object to supporting Augusta’s stance on this), but supporting August’s prohibition on women members is tantamount to prohibiting membership based on race.  You have to look beyond the money and protect the company against careening off course for profit alone.

      • PFitz

         As the leader of a global company the CEO has only one obligation to look to the money and return the greatest shareholder value possible. I appreciate that this sounds cold but it provides a level, rational basis to make decisions.  It is applied constantly; does a CEO of a health insurnace company have the moral obligation to provide the highest level of care to everyone, or do they have the obligation to provide the level of  care as contracted?  Does the CEO of the pharmacuetical company have the moral obligation to provide the “life saving” drug at an affordable price to the uninsured?  Does the CEO of the manufacturing firm have a moral obligation to keep jobs in America and not put thousands out of work, or is she/he obligated to find cheaper labor and higher profits?  Does the CEO of an investment firm have the moral obligation to not engage in transactions that will cause the collapse of the institution and require a taxpayer bailout? 
        The point is this happens all the time and no one really cares yet we are able to conjour up real indignation over membership in a lily white old boys club? If you are really pissed about the moral abomination that is going on in the deep south, where an innocent woman is being wrongfully denied access to the nearest thing to heaven on earth (I have walked the course); take a right, or left, turn off of Madison St. on your next trip out to the United Center and drive two blocks; it is a long way to Augusta from there.  If you can care about the poor CEO of IBM, you should really care about what you see there.

      • ginidietrich

         @StorchMurphy  @PFitz  @hackmanj This is such a great conversation, I hate to put my nose in it. Carry on!

  • For those of you interested in the legal side of this issue, here’s a short blog post from my former employer that discusses whether this policy is “legal.” It’s a short read.

    • ginidietrich

       @Sean McGinnis The issue isn’t whether or not it’s legal (and, by the sounds of that blog post, is it). The issue is moral. This is 2012. Girls should be allowed, ESPECIALLY when one of their sponsor companies is run by a woman.

      •  @ginidietrich  @Sean McGinnis But you are missing the most important point: Girls have cooties. End of story.

        • ginidietrich

           @KenMueller  @Sean McGinnis Bah. Humbug.

  • StorchMurphy

    I have to agree Gini. That is crazy backwards.  It doesn’t seem logical that something so inane exists anymore, but there it is.  I suppose one could point to the fact that August is a private club and as such can do what it wants.
    But, I think it reflects poorly on IBM that they would promote a woman to a top spot only to inadvertently belittle her by advertising with such a sponsor.  From an issue management standpoint, I’d have a hard time helping IBM defend that position.  It’s hard to see it as anything less than profit driven.  Sad that.  Some day it will change, in the meantime, IBM should walk or force a change, not contribute to it.

    • ginidietrich

       @StorchMurphy That’s my issue with it. We finally are getting women into the top spots in the world’s largest companies, but she isn’t allowed to hang out with her peers? Even though I’m not a golfer, if I were running a Fortune 50 company, I would really examine whether or not the sponsorship was effective because it wouldn’t make sense that I couldn’t do business with my peers because of this rule. 

  • Provided there is no slight/injury/etc – then groups of people should be allowed to run their own little clubs (men only / women only etc etc)….  However – where there is such a huge financial gain / where there is such a public support of an event / where that club is asking for support from the Golf Association / from TV / from sponsors etc etc – then they need to play ‘by the rules’ – and our rules (2012) version mean that we shoudl all expect equal treatment….
    The USPGA should tell them they can keep their course woman-free – and then the event should be moved elsewhere – as USPGA should be an equal opportunity event…
    Sadly golf is one of the key bastions for ongoing ‘non-equality’ – so don’t hold any breaths..,…

    • ginidietrich

       @Nic_Cartwright I”d LOVE to see that happen. Sadly, I don’t think it will.

  • BethMosher

    I thought Ms. Rometty’s response to this was brilliant, which was I’m assuming a very calculated non-verbal response. I don’t think (I could be wrong – it happens) she or IBM made any public statement on this, but just let the media frenzy over it happen knowing full-well that most of the sane world would side with her. She didn’t need to respond. (And, as an aside – I would have LOVED to have been a fly on the wall during those internal communications discussions on whether or not to respond – all the back and forth over what is the best course…) But her most brilliant move was this: after the non-verbal response, she sat watching the Masters in her PINK blazer (and was photgraphed incessantly, talked about on TV,etc.), which in my opinion spoke volumes. I could go on and on about this, but three cheers for that very calculated, brilliant response.