Masters Raises Diversity Issue

CEOs stay silent in no-women world of Augusta.

Corporate executives connected with Augusta National Golf Club ducked the issue of its all-male membership throughout the four-day Masters Tournament that concluded yesterday.

Their silence persisted even after President Barack Obama’s spokesman and Mitt Romney, the potential Republican Party challenger, said April 5 that the near 80-year-old club should admit female members. In addition, social media sites including Twitter.com have been filled with comments calling for an end to gender discrimination at the club.

Palmisano on Committee

IBM spokesman Barbini declined to discuss whether Rometty, 54, or Chairman and former CEO Sam Palmisano, 60, attended the event. Rometty eventually was photographed by the Associated Press in the gallery yesterday at the 18th hole -- without a green jacket. Palmisano, who serves on the Masters Tournament’s Digital Technology Committee, was listed on the committees’ assignment list for this year’s Masters.

Racial Integration Succeeded

IBM and other companies in the past pressured private golf clubs to end racial discrimination. In 1990, IBM joined other corporate sponsors including Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. in pulling TV ads from the PGA Championship when that year’s tournament was played at the then whites-only Shoal Creek, outside of Birmingham, Alabama.

Nationwide Debate

Bloomberg News first reported the conflict between Augusta’s male-only membership and IBM’s new CEO on March 28, setting off a nationwide debate on whether she should be admitted.

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