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Gini Dietrich

Augusta National Faces Scrutiny on “No Women” Rule

By: Gini Dietrich | April 5, 2012 | 
135

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, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

134 comments
BethMosher
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.

Nic_Cartwright
Nic_Cartwright

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..,...

 

 

Robert Murphy (Jitsu PR)
Robert Murphy (Jitsu PR)

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.

PFitz
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.

NancyCawleyJean
NancyCawleyJean

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

Maranda
Maranda

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. 

 

 

Shona Easton
Shona Easton

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!

shannonq
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. 

penneyfox
penneyfox

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."

TheJackB
TheJackB

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.

 

 

Latest blog post: Tear Down The Blog | The JackB

bdorman264
bdorman264

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? 

GoSeeWrite
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. 

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Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

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!)

TonyBennett
TonyBennett

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
ginidietrich moderator

 @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. 

Robert Murphy (Jitsu PR)
Robert Murphy (Jitsu PR)

 @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.

hackmanj
hackmanj

 @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.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @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
ginidietrich moderator

 @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
ginidietrich moderator

 @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. 

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @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.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @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.

janbeery
janbeery

 @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! 

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @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. 

bdorman264
bdorman264

 @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.........

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @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.

PFitz
PFitz

 @StorchMurphy

 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.

PFitz
PFitz

 @hackmanj

 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.

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

 @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?

hackmanj
hackmanj

 @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.

shannonq
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. 

janbeery
janbeery

 @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. 

TheJackB
TheJackB

 @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,

Latest blog post: Tear Down The Blog | The JackB

bdorman264
bdorman264

 @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. 

janbeery
janbeery

 @ginidietrich  @HowieSPM careful Gini. haha, when facebook first started, my youngest son set up my page and I was traveling on business. He told me to just go in ad fill out the profile. So, I answered the questions. He and @kfas called me later in hysterics. "Mom, YOU LIKE WOMEN?" I said, "Of course, who doesn't!" 

I still get grief for that. 

I'll wear the T-shirt with you!!!!

TonyBennett
TonyBennett

@ginidietrich when is a television network going to give @HowieSPM his own variety show?

TonyBennett
TonyBennett

@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!!

TonyBennett
TonyBennett

@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 :)

Maranda
Maranda

 @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. 

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

 @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.

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