How should IBM handle Augusta National’s ‘no women’ rule?

The golf club has yet to offer IBM CEO, Virginia Rometty, a membership. If you were IBM’s PR counsel, how would you handle the situation?

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Did you know Augusta National Golf Club does not allow women to join as members? They didn’t allow African American members until 1990.

Did something happen last night? Did I wake up in 1912? Do things like this really happen in 2012?

The reason it has come to my attention is because IBM, a major PGA tournament sponsor, promoted Virginia “Ginni” Rometty to CEO in January.

She’s not allowed to join the club.

What’s a company to do? Should it continue to give money to an organization that won’t allow its top executive to join, or pull back the sponsorship?

This isn’t the first time IBM, along with Toyota and Honda, has pressured Augusta. The last time was in 1990 when each company pulled their television advertising during the PGA tournament. That year’s tournament took place at the then whites-only Shoal Creek outside of Birmingham, Ala.

Augusta National subsequently ended its racial barrier, citing both PR and ethical reasons.

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