IBM, PGA, Augusta face crisis over women members and must act


Perhaps the worst crisis — other than a complete blowout, company killer — is the one that won’t go away and slowly saps your reputational strength without you really feeling the pain. A leech crisis.

As sports and golf fans marvel today at the broadcast beauty and competitive depth of the Masters, the issue of Augusta National Golf Club not admitting women as full members arises again. A few years back the New York Times put all its journalistic weight and power behind an effort to mock Augusta’s dons into accepting women members. The Times failed.

Now the speculation rises again like the trout in Ike’s Pond. IBM, a long-time and heavyweight Masters sponsor, in January named its first woman CEO, Virginia Rometty.

With that job always came a membership at Augusta. This poses problems for the all-male private club, the PGA and IBM. PR experts differ on the varied options facing them.

http://bit.ly/HUUX

Maybe I need to pinch myself. It’s Easter Sunday in Buffalo and the sun is out, the temperature is headed to 60 degrees, the lilacs are budding and there’s no snow on the ground. Similarly, this is 2012, IBM has its first woman CEO, women make up half the population, they fill more than half the places in American universities, but one cannot sign for a chardonnay at Augusta National? What is wrong with this picture? Maybe the keepers of the flame ought to at least drop the National part.

Times columnist Maureen Dowd had a few choice words today for this bastion of testosterone. Or maybe Viagra.

http://nyti.ms/HyFjmt

And what about the leading golfers of our day, Mickelson, Woods, Watson, Couples, Mahan, Westwood and the others? Sons to mothers, fathers to daughters, brothers to sisters, they cannot marshal enough outrage to at least suggest discrimination in any form has no place in golf or the world?

Isn’t golf, white and elitist as it is, trying to soften its image and diversify its following? What are all those sappy First Tee ads about?

There’s enough hypocrisy to go around in this case. I suspect that there’s a deal in the works — or better be — to admit Rometty and hopefully a handful of other women who are peers to many among the 300 current members of Augusta. Members like Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Lynn Swan, Lou Holtz, Pat Haden, Sam Nunn and Jack Welch all fought for equal rights in some form in some areas. They’re showing there’s nothing august about Augusta.

No doubt the tournament’s enourmous success, which shows only continued growth, is part of the male leaders’ conceits. But just as clearly time is long past to defuse this crisis and the brainpower at the PGA, IBM and Augusta ought to find a way, soon.

Ask Watson, IBM’s “Jeopardy” winning computer, she’ll know what to do.

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About steveoncrisis

The content is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It comes from Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and as managing editor and editorial page editor at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower and Associates, one of the nation's largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agency with six offices in the Northeast and Southeast.
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