Some of their milestones down through the years include:
- In 1914, 76 years before the US Disabilities Act, IBM hired its first disabled employee.
- In 1942 IBM launched a disabled employee training program.
- In 1943 Ruth Leach Amonette was elected IBM’s first female Vice President.
- In 1946 IBM hired T.J. Laster, their first black sales representative, 18 years before the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
- In 1953 IBM chairman Thomas Watson issued the company’s first Equal Opportunity Policy letter.
- And in 2011, IBM announced that Ginni Rometty would take over as President and CEO – the first female CEO in the history of the company.
Consequently, I was stunned to read at the weekend that IBM’s CEO was snubbed by the organisers of the US Open at Augusta simply because she is a woman, and despite this IBM continued to sponsor the event!
A bit of background – the Augusta National Golf Club is a private club, so it can set its own rules. Its rules have been notoriously discriminatory through the years – it didn’t admit black members until 1990, until recently it had a policy requiring all caddies to be black, and it continues to refuse women membership.
The fact that it refuses to allow female membership is now sharply in focus because the club has traditionally invited the CEO’s of the main sponsors of the US Masters to become members. By the end of this year’s tournament, despite IBM’s significant sponsorship, Ms Rometty had not been invited to become a member, because of her gender.
Now Ms Rometty is reportedly not a frequent golfer, so while it may not be a devastating blow to her game, it is a slap in the face that she wasn’t asked to be a member when her predecessors at IBM were. As were the CEO’s of the two other Masters sponsors (AT&T and Exxon Mobil).
IBM’s involvement with the event goes back many years and they are tied into it deeply not just financially but also at a technological level. According to Bloomberg
IBM is featured in the tournament’s TV commercials and runs its website, mobile-phone applications and media-center technology. Palmisano serves on Augusta’s technology tournament committee. He remains IBM’s chairman — a role Rometty is likely also to assume upon his retirement
Augusta may need IBM more than IBM needs the Masters…