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Monday, April 2, 2012

Strategic CSR - IBM

The article in the url below is topical given that the U.S. Masters golf tournament will be taking place in Georgia later this week. It concerns the membership policy of Augusta National (the host golf club) and, in particular, its refusal to admit female members. This issue was a featured issue and case in the first edition of Strategic CSR (Issues: Diversity—Discrimination, U.S. Masters, p165):

In 2003, it was Martha Burk, then the head of the National Organization for Women, who decided to press the issue of Augusta’s all-male membership, but now, it stems from I.B.M.’s decision last year to name Virginia M. Rometty as its chief executive.

In particular, the problem stems from the golf club’s policy of traditionally inviting IBM’s CEO to be a member. So far in IBM’s history, all its CEOs have been men; Rometty is the firm’s first female CEO. The article below notes that Augusta’s policy:

… isn’t a tradition that would get shoved aside lightly because I.B.M. remains one of only three main sponsors of the Masters. But Augusta has not only never had a female member, its former chairman Hootie Johnson famously responded to Burk’s [2003] challenge with his declaration that he wouldn’t be forced “at the point of a bayonet” to admit women.

In the past, this ‘modern, progressive’ organization has proved its ability to be ‘flexible’ when expedient:

It is worth noting that Augusta sidestepped similar questions about racial discrimination by quietly admitting two black members in 1990, shortly after the discriminatory practices of P.G.A. Championship host Shoal Creek in Birmingham, Ala., came to light and ended in the club agreeing to invite black members.

So far, however, Augusta:

… has chosen not to take that route with women.

This may have to change. Spotting an opportunity to revive her 2003 campaign, Martha Burk has jumped back into the fray (http://onpar.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/29/burk-augusta-gender-issue-is-now-i-b-m-s/), saying that:

I.B.M. has an obligation not to let Augusta slide on this. ‘They have a moral obligation to their customers; they have a moral obligation to their new C.E.O. … I think the board of directors and [former IBM CEO] Sam Palmisano has to tell Augusta National to extend membership to their new C.E.O. and if it doesn’t, they will pull the sponsorship. … “If they don’t, they are saying that the values of the club are the values of the company.’