Will the Augusta National Golf Club Admit a Female CEO?

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By Kirsten Salyer

Before the Masters Tournament starts next week, the Augusta National Golf Club has one issue to settle: what to do about Ginni Rometty, IBM's first female CEO.

The club, which hasn’t admitted a female member since its founding in 1933, customarily invites the chief executive officer of International Business Machines Corp., one of the three sponsors of the Masters, to join. But what happens when that executive is a woman?

IBM has been an official sponsor for the tournament for 10 years and has run the Masters website since 1996. Before Rometty became the company’s first female chief executive in October, the last four IBM CEOs were members of the all-male golf club, although its most recent CEO, Sam Palmisano, was not immediately invited. (The other two sponsors this year, Exxon Mobil Corp. and AT&T Inc., have male CEOs.)

This isn’t the first time the club has faced pressure to allow women to enter its ranks. The National Council of Women’s Organizations led a protest at the tournament in 2003. That same year, The New York Times reported that the Masters gave up commercial sponsorship from its three sponsors, which at the time also included Citigroup and Coca-Cola, because of concerns the companies would face pressure from the women’s rights group.

So why not break tradition and allow Rometty access to the boys' club? She's already gone against the grain by becoming IBM's first female CEO in the company's century-long history. And women are key players in the sport: In 2010 there were 5.4 million women golfers in the U.S., compared to 20.7 million men, according to the National Golf Foundation. With so many women on the green, it's about time the sport's most elite club let a woman wear the green of their club jackets.

What do you think? Should the Masters change its policy to let Rometty join?

(Kirsten Salyer is the social media editor for Bloomberg View. Follow her on Twitter.)

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-0- Mar/28/2012 22:07 GMT