If you need a good man in your corner, Barack Obama isn’t a bad one to have. And Virginia Rometty, CEO of IBM, has him. According to Reuters, the President believes women should be allowed to join the all-male Augusta National Golf Club, the White House said on Thursday. With a comment like that from President Obama this could be the final kick in the pants to get this famously old boys’ club to change its rules.
After remaining rigidly all male for 80 years, it seems the world’s most exclusive fraternity, the Augusta National Golf Club, may be forced to finally let a woman in. The Masters Tournament, which is hosted by Augusta, traditionally grants membership to the CEOS from its official sponsors (IBM, AT&T and ExxonMobil). But this year they have a little issue as the CEO of IBM happens to be a woman and coincidentally, a golfer.
“His personal opinion is that women should be admitted,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters, saying he had spoken to Obama about the issue. “We are kind of long past the time when women should be excluded from anything,” Carney said as the first round of the Masters tournament got under way at the Augusta club in Georgia.
Augusta, which counts Warren Buffett and Bill Gates among its members, is an exclusive, staunch old boys club where members wear green blazers and women are only allowed on the course as guests or spouses. This is not the first time they’ve faced pressure to admit women, but this time the woman represents a whole lot of sponsorship money — money that the Masters could theoretically lose if they deny Rometty an invitation to don a green jacket.
As Amy Tennery of The Jane Dough pointed out, the Augusta admittance of women isn’t just about golf. We have written a lot about how absolutely priceless knowing how to play golf is in the business world. It is no coincidence that 90% of Fortune 500 CEOs play golf. According to Barrons, one quarter of the 25 million golfers in the U.S. are top management executives and a full 80% of that number agreed that the game of golf is an important business development tool. Condoleezza Rice, Sandra Day O’Connor, Archer Daniels Midland CEO Patricia Woertz and Wendy’s CEO Kerrii Anderson are all also avid golfers.
According to Elaine Kunda, the CEO of The Grindstone’s parent company B5 Media:
“You are playing for four to five hours plus drinks after. When do you get non-stop time with colleagues or clients in that capacity? It really has a positive impact on your relationship and it definitely enhances it. Golf is a relationship builder and if relationships are key to the business you’re in, then you are for sure missing out by not being a part of it.”