In the 80 years since it first opened its doors, the world famous Augusta National Golf Club has yet to allow a single woman to become a member. Now they may not have a choice.
That’s because for the first time since Augusta started hosting the Masters Tournament one of the CEO’s from the tournament’s three major sponsors is a woman.
Every year the CEOs from IBM, AT&T and ExxonMobile are given memberships in exchange for sponsoring the tournament. And as it turns out, Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM, is a woman.
The tournament begins this week and there’s no indication that Rometty will be offered a membership. The club has faced pressure to admit women and has always declined. But this is different. IBM is a major sponsor and there’s no denying the importance of Rometty in the organization. So the question is will Rometty be seen wearing one of the coveted green blazers–the only evidence of membership in the ultra-private and very exclusive club.
Rometty has not spoken publicly about the issue and neither IBM nor Augusta is speaking publicly either. And there’s plenty of reason why they would all want to keep this story from getting out of control. Rometty only recently took the helm at IBM and the company is hosting all of the tech-related duties for the Masters.
As a private club Augusta has the ability to select terms of its membership, nor matter how offensive. But Rometty’s presence at the head of IBM takes away one of the easiest outs the hyper-conservative club by simply being a female CEO, and how the club and the Masters Tournament handles Rometty will say quite a bit about the value the professional golf community places on women.
Furthermore, the way IBM decides to handle this situation will speak volumes about the value it places in female leadership.
Photo from gomattolson via flickr.