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Bill Kalmar

Quality Insider

Oh, No! The IBM CEO Is a Girl!

Now what?

Published: Wednesday, April 11, 2012 - 10:10

During the 1940s, it was commonplace for boys, during their formative years, to spend their days girl-free. In fact, my pals and I zealously maintained girl-free territories so that our game playing, bike rides, and hours of comic book reading were devoid of girls. We even had a clubhouse that was none too friendly to members of the opposite sex. After all, they had “cooties,” whatever those were.

But those days were numbered because there was a movement to abandon discriminatory practices, as evidenced by the Our Gang movie series, which notably put boys, girls, whites, and blacks together in a group of equals. Such a thing had never been done before in cinema, and it broke new ground. Whether viewed as a portent of things to come or a hopeful future, it was change in motion.

Turning the clocks forward to the present day, that groundbreaking movement continues. Women are now in positions of authority at many Fortune 500 companies. Presidential campaigns, which used to comprise men exclusively, have included women. Both of our daughters have MBAs. The world has changed. Well, almost. There are still vestiges of that 1940s attitude in several places.

Consider the policy of the Augusta National Golf Club, which hosts the Masters Tournament every year. Since 1932, the club’s men-only membership stands firm, and the names of its members, which number about 300, remain a secret. Maybe they have a secret handshake as well.

A major sponsor of the Masters Tournament is IBM. In past years the CEO of IBM is invited to join the club as a member. Currently, Virginia Rometty is the CEO of IBM. So far there hasn’t been a move to extend that invitation to Rometty, even though she will be hosting a series of events at the club for IBM customers. I suspect that when Rometty was named CEO, a shudder of disbelief came over the club members.

At a recent press conference, Billy Payne, the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, deflected all questions regarding Rometty’s admission with silly, inane responses—probably written for him by someone on the board because he doesn’t appear to be that clever.

It will be interesting to see what transpires during the next couple of months regarding membership for women. No doubt the dinosaurs at the golf club will continue to voice their fossilized opinions while the rest of the world looks at their inactions as infantile and comedic.

Groucho Marx once remarked that he “would never join a club that would have him as a member.” Perhaps there are some members of Augusta who will conclude they don’t want to be associated with a club that excludes women or with members still living in the 1940s.

But that would be a stretch. Evidently some still feel that girls have cooties!


About The Author

Bill Kalmar’s picture

Bill Kalmar

William J. Kalmar has extensive business experience, including service with a Fortune 500 bank and the Michigan Quality Council, of which he served as director from 1993 through 2003. He served on the Board of Overseers of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program and has been a Baldrige examiner. He was also named quality professional of the year by the ASQ Detroit chapter. Now semiretired, Kalmar does freelance writing for several publications. He is a member of the USA Today Vacation Panel, a mystery shopper for several companies, and a frequent presenter and lecturer.


Quality and Exclusion

I recall many decades ago as a college student, a job interview brought me to the Augusta GA area. As part of the interview day, I was taken to the Augusta National Golf Club for dinner. It is certainly a stunningly beautiful location in the springtime! From the informal conversations during the day, it was obvious that membership in the club and the ability to use it as a business entertainment venue was considered a crucial asset for local industries. It was equally obvious to me as a female engineer that by taking me there, the company was undermining their efforts to enhance the hiring of women and minorities - a crucial busines objective at that time, especially as the business was a federal contractor.

Frankly, there was nothing else in the region that provided the business and social status of this club - and probably still is not. I decided to look elsewhere, rather than be limited in my potential. If the top managment considers you unacceptable to socialize with due to gender, how much certainty is there that this attitude doesn't rub off in their corporate workplace? Unfortunately I think IBM needs to seriously consider where they spend their marketing money - the attitudes of those entities a company chooses to associate with, incorrectly or not, will be attributed to the company.

Your lunch at Augusta Golf Club

Well said! Dealing with dinasaurs can be frustrating! Glad you were able to rise above their infantile attitude! Bill

Send your political

Send your political editorials to the New York Times.  This is a Quality Site.

"Quality" Digest

What in the world does this have to do with quality?

Augusta National Golf Club and the Baldrige Criteria

Thanks for responding to my column about The Masters. Perhaps when you get an opportunity you should review the Baldrige Criteria and ascertain how the outdated policy at the Augusta National Golf Club does not reflect in any fashion the requirements of a performance excellence organization. Category V discusses Workforce and asks questions about the diversity of the workplace making sure it reflects the community. You and I can agree to disagree but companies banning any segment of society continue to live in the past and I think you know that. I don't suspect that we will see the Augusta National Golf Club winning the Baldrige and I suspect that the Club will also never be on a FORTUNE magazine list of "The 100 Best Companies To Work For", nor will it be on the FORTUNE magazine list of "Most Admired Companies". But heck if the Club wants to remain in the Dark Ages, I guess that is their choice but we as quality professionals don't have to support that policy. For me, I just chuckle at their infantile, comedic position and I think there are many others who do the same! Thanks again for writing. Bill

I'll bite

#1 I think certain organizations have the right to choose their membership.

#2 Can that be discriminatory or just plain sleazy?  Yes, and see #1.

I can't imagine a male human would care if a female organization closed itself to men unless membership in that group held more than superficial value.  Why would a woman want to join a group of wealthy, narrow-minded good ole boys?  She should form a club for high-powered women.