IBM Facing Golf Gender Bias After Fighting Racial Barriers

By Beth Jinks and John Helyar – Twenty-two years ago, International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) used its clout to protest racial discrimination. The company joined other corporate sponsors in pulling television advertising from the PGA Championship which was being played at a whites-only Alabama golf club.

The Shoal Creek club caved. Augusta National Golf Club followed, also inviting its first black member to join in 1990.

The company’s CEO traditionally dons the club’s signature green member blazer at the tournament, as do the CEOs of co- sponsors Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) and AT&T Inc. (T) IBM will have to decide whether to keep spending the money if its CEO lacks equal status with other sponsors.

“All issues of membership remain the private deliberations of the membership. That statement remains accurate,” Payne said in response to questions about reconsidering female membership. “We don’t talk about our private deliberations. We especially don’t talk about them when a named candidate is part of the question.”

That leaves IBM, which promoted Rometty to CEO in January, with a dilemma: Should it pressure the near 80-year-old club to change its gender policies or, if it can’t do that, should it withdraw its tournament sponsorship? more>


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