Why is IBM allowing the Masters to disrespect its CEO by continuing to sponsor the tournament -- even when she will be the first IBM CEO not to be awarded honorary membership, solely because she is female?
The Masters have been a part of sports tradition since 1934. Each year the prestigious golf tournament is held at Augusta National Country Club. And each year the executives of the corporate sponsors of the tournament are presented with honorary membership to the Club and the iconic green member’s jacket. This year’s sponsors include IBM, AT&T and Exxon Mobil.
While the Masters dates all the way back to 1934, it's 2012 and Augusta National Golf Course still refuses to admit female members. Because of this outdated policy, the CEO of IBM, Virginia Rometty, won't slip on the famed green jacket and accept her membership alongside her fellow CEO’s this weekend -- simply because she’s a woman.
Instead of refusing to comment, Ginni Rometty and IBM should pull their sponsorship and make a statement that this is unacceptable.
IBM is one of the grandest and most established tech companies in history. Founded more than 100 years ago, as of December 2011 it was the third largest publicly traded tech company in the world by market cap. It counts more than 400,000 employees worldwide in over 170 countries, has 10 research labs, and among other things invented the ATM (cash point), the floppy disk and hard disk drive.
Its history is full of achievements as a progressive employer and leadership in worker equality. It started offering training classes for female systems services professionals in 1935. It hired its first black salesman in 1946 – 18 years before the Civil Rights Act. Its first equal opportunity employment policy letter was released in 1952 – one year before the US Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education. In 1953 when negotiating to open two factories in southern States, then company President Thomas Watson openly established that IBM would absolutely not have segregated workforces, against those governors' wishes. It was also the only tech company in 2004 to be ranked in Working Mother Magazine's Top 10 places to work, and provides same-sex partners with health benefits of employees which is partly why the Human Rights Campaign has scored it 100% on its index of gay-friendliness since 2003. Two of its thirteen board members are women (which is a better proportion than Apple and obviously Facebook with zero).
So why does it continue to sponsor a golf tournament held at a private club which requires all staff caddies to be black, and does not allow female membership? Why is it sponsoring this year's tournament when, in contrast to IBM CEOs before her who have been awarded honorary membership, Ms. Rometty is not receiving the same respect and courtesy?