Female CEO Creates Dilemma For Augusta National Golf Club
In the past the club has asked every CEO of IBM, a Masters sponsor, to become a member. However, the club has not invited a woman to join in its history and has a well-known "men-only" policy. Women can only play the course as guests.
Should Augusta National chose to keep with tradition, Rometty will become the first woman to don the club's signature green jacket. Otherwise, the club would have to deny IBM's CEO an invitation for the first time and possibly risk losing one of its major corporate sponsors.
IBM holds a powerful position at the world famous golf course. The company is one of three co-sponsor of the tournament along with Exxon Mobil and AT&T. The CEOs of both of those companies are club members.
The technology company is also responsible for running the tournament's website, cell-phone applications, and technology in the club's media center. IBM also maintains a hospitality cabin located next to the 10th hole, where they wine and dine clients. Traditionally, the company's CEO has been allowed to don the green jacket while conducting business at the tournament.
Augusta National's resistance to change has been well documented. The club did not invite a black member into its midst until 1990, when it extended an invitation to Gannett Co. television President Ron Townsend.
In 2002, activist Martha Burk challenged then Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson about the club's "men-only" policy. Burk argued that hosting the tournament at an all-male club constituted sexism. After a year of debate, Burk and her supporters protested outside of the club's gates during The Masters, demanding equality.
Responding to the protests and negative attention, Johnson famously said, "I want to make one point: If I drop dead right now, our position will not change on this issue. It is not my issue alone. I promise you what I am saying is, if I drop dead this second, our position will not change."
When Johnson stepped down in 2006, he handed the reigns over to Billy Payne, who said that there is "no specific timetable" regarding the end of the all-male policy.
Augusta National has declined to comment on the predicament, stating that they do not discuss membership-related issues. IBM has also decline to release a statement.
Rometty, 54, took over as IBM's CEO last October when then-CEO Sam Palmisano retired.While not an avid golfer, Rometty has been known to frequent a golf course every so often.
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