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?

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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