Masters of Sexism

 

 

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Today’s tee-off at the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, Georgia came and went without a single woman arriving at Augusta National Golf Club in the icky green jacket that denotes membership. The club never announces new members; members announce themselves by showing up at the tournament in the aforementioned green.

Not having a woman in Augusta National is not news. The club has always been men-only, and it resisted extreme pressure 9 years ago from women’s groups to accept female members. What is news this year is that the lead sponsor of the golf tournament, IBM, has a new CEO–and her name is Virginia. IBM CEOs have always been given memberships. Until now.

Hung out to dry

In the run-up to the tournament there was much press speculation as to whether the club would at last dump their dinosaur image and admit Rometty. And if not, what would IBM do? We found out on Thursday. IBM did nothing, and in doing nothing swallowed its company integrity and hung Rometty out to dry. The silence sent a loud and clear message: “We respect the boys at Augusta National Golf Club more than we respect our woman CEO.”

Close your eyes and imagine a little different scenario. IBM has a new CEO. He is African American. IBM CEOs have always been members of Augusta National. The club has never had an African American (as was true until 1990). Does one of the world’s most successful corporations continue to pour money into Augusta National and underwrite racism? Of course not.

It’s only a girl

But this time it’s different–it’s only a girl. And girls don’t count. They may be OK to put out front to show the world IBM is a progressive company, but they don’t really have any authority, and they don’t really deserve the same respect as former CEOs.

Why didn’t Rometty object? Maybe she decided years ago not to make waves. Maybe she just doesn’t understand the symbolism of the tacky green jacket–which is not about golf, but about power. More likely she did object–and was bellowed down by the bullies on her board of directors (the chair of which, Samuel Palmisano, is an Augusta member). You know the line: “Wait a little longer, little lady.”

Hooray for the women’s movement for passing the laws that opened executive suites by making employment discrimination illegal, allowing Rometty and a very few sisters to get to the top. That’s a clear victory. Because of our work, she may even be able to file a sex discrimination lawsuit against IBM for providing perks for the men that she doesn’t get.

But we still have far to go–to the bastions of power such as golf clubs that are beyond the law and to the corporations that are seemingly beyond shame.

There’s a message here for us: Stay mad. Stay strong. And stay on their asses.

If we do that, failure is impossible.

This post was originally published by Ms. Magazine.

Matha Burk’s latest book is Your Voice, Your Vote: The Savvy Women’s Guide to Power, Politics and the Change We Need. In 2002, she sued Augusta for discrimination.

 

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Photo of IBM Chief Virginia Rometty by Fortune Live Media via flickr

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53 comments

Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin3 years ago

Glad I have no IBM products and never will get any.!

Shirley Townsend
Shirley T.3 years ago

I have written IBM for letting their CEO Virginia Rometty and all women out to dry. They have allowed their CEO to be insulted in this way and have not supported her. By not supporting their woman CEO they are telling me it is still okay to do business this way. Fine sell only to men. I won't be buying your products until you support women.

Dan H.
Dan H.3 years ago

I certainly understand the issue of sexism that this article tackles and I am sympathetic to many, many points. My problem with this article comes from this quote:

"Why didn’t Rometty object? Maybe she decided years ago not to make waves. Maybe she just doesn’t understand the symbolism of the tacky green jacket–which is not about golf, but about power. More likely she did object–and was bellowed down by the bullies on her board of directors (the chair of which, Samuel Palmisano, is an Augusta member). You know the line: “Wait a little longer, little lady.”"

Puttnig the words in the mouths of the board of directors and assuming they have this attitude seems inflammatory to me with an already inflammatory issue. The facts of the matter are bad enough, no need to throw a hypothetical accusation around (albeit one that does still happen). Why not interview Rometty on the matter? Maybe she doesn't care.
While the Masters is an all male power institution, there are all women networks that are building as well. Better to allow the Masters to wake up to the reality of the new power structure where it either gets left behind in dusty irrelevance or it advances its own cause by allowing women membership.


Patricia R.
Patricia R.3 years ago

Who cares? Golf is a game that men play with little balls. Augusta is a dump, home of the original Tobacco Road. It ain't no big deal that once a year they tidy up for the Masters. I feel sorry for people who believe this strutfest for the deluded could matter one bit.

tiffany t.
tiffany t.3 years ago

glad I do not live in the fantasy world of materialism

Barbara DeFratis
Barbara DeFratis3 years ago

May be it's me, but golf has been and will probably always be something that I don't give a hoot about. After all, chasing a tiny ball into a hole, is in my opinion a silly waste of time.

john casablanca
john casablanca3 years ago

this is the 21st century, in case the "good ole boys" in GEORGIA forgot.
people still forget this is the SOUTH, the culture is keep'em barefoot and
and pregnant (a sign of their hypothetical manhood). in the South, very
unfortunately there are too many men still think that the, white, protestant
male controls the world.
the worse situation about this matter, is the lack of support from IBM for
their support of their CEO. i thought they had more class then that.

Margaret J.
Margaret J.3 years ago

I think we're going to think twice before we use IBM to upgrade our office server. Thank you for this very informative article.

Shelly Peterson
Shelly Peterson3 years ago

Rename Augusta National to Koch Brother's Empire...!!...fitting!

Joe R.
Joe R.3 years ago

Where is the outrage against the PGA? Where is the outrage BY the PGA?