Ginni Rometty is the new CEO of IBM and one of the main architects of the reinvention of this old line technology giant. Under her influence IBM has embraced cloud technology as the centerpiece of their product and service offerings and , as a result, their company shares are at the highest valuation in their history.
As their new ad campaign boasts this makes her the #1 IBMer in a lot of ways. She is entitled to all the spoils that go with responsibility she has embraced, including a membership in one of the most exclusive all boys fraternities in the country, Augusta National Golf Club.
Augusta National has a history of extending membership to the chief executive of IBM, one of the main sponsors of The Masters each year, as well as the top executives of other fortune 500 companies like Coke, GE, Rockwell, and more. As Sally Jenkins points out in this Washington Post article, “Inherited money doesn’t get you into Augusta, nor does status or reputation alone. The best way to become a member is to shark your way to the top of a large American Company…..Rometty earned her way into a winner’s circle that is genderless. Her defining characteristic is not that she’s a woman but that she has a talent for corporate victory”.
By process alone it seems that Augusta National has an opportunity to put into it’s rear view mirror past criticism of it’s penchant for male only membership. Most important, they can do this on their own terms and not “at the point of a bayonet” as Hootie Johnson characterized it back in 2002 when women’s rights advocate Martha Burk tried to force it on them through her unsuccessful parking lot demonstrations down the street from the club entrance.
Seems to me that if the membership committee of Augusta National really means what it has said in the past, women will eventually be members of this austere club, this is their opportunity to pull it off seamlessly, without fanfare, and for a reason that fits with their policies. As Sally concludes, “If Rometty does slip on a (green) blazer, it will be quietly, for the simple reason that, in business, she plays from the tips”.