By Martha Burk
Friday, April 6, 2012
No, Virginia Rometty, the new female CEO of IBM, was not offered the "green jacket" of admission to Augusta National Golf Club. And Big Blue did nothing. Women are still shut off this power turf and can be shunned even if they're CEOs.
No. 1: It's not about golf. Half of Augusta's membership (which reads like a roster of Fortune 500 CEOs) probably doesn't even care about golf, but the members do care about power relationships.
According to Fortune magazine, "golf remains the true communications hub of America's business elite." Courses like Augusta and the ancillary activities that surround them are where careers are made, deals are made, and membership in the "club" signifies equal status with other titans of business.
No. 2: Whether Rometty personally cares about the club is beside the point, and it most definitely should not be her responsibility to solve this "problem" by toeing some company-provided line and saying she doesn't want to join.
The point is that the board of directors of one of the world's most powerful corporations is allowing their female CEO to be diminished in the name of – well – the "boy's club."
She may be good enough to put out front as head of the company, but she's not really good enough to be an equal member of the power elite. Have they thought about how this will play out in other venues, like those where Rometty has to face other CEOs in business negotiations?
Big Blue has stumbled big time, and let's hope they hear about it from stockholders, female employees, and the public it depends on for those dollars it spends at Augusta underwriting sex discrimination.
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Martha Burk directs the Corporate Accountability Project for the National Council of Women's Organizations. Her new book is Your Voice, Your Vote: The Savvy Woman's Guide to Power, Politics, and the Change We Need.
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