Obama says Ginni Rometty should be offered membership to the Augusta golf club. What about IBM’s own civil rights lapses?

From Channel 5 (WCVB-TV) in Boston.

At a press conference this afternoon, President Obama responded that, yes, women should be allowed membership to the Augusta National Golf Club.   (I agree.)

“The president’s answer is yes, he believes women should be admitted,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters at a briefing. Specifically, Obama believes it is “up to the club to decide, (but) his personal opinion is that women should be admitted to the club.”

This story can’t be hitting at a more auspicious time for me, because I am slogging along with the Title VII matter now before Judge Seibel in the Southern District of New York.    Here is a private club, the Augusta National Golf Club, signalling or indicating to a major corporate sponsor, that they won’t let the chief officer of that company be a member of the club.

I will go along with the notion that Augusta is, in fact, private.   It seems to me, though, that it has so many trappings, or indicia, of an entity that holds itself out to the public, that it is, in fact, a “public accommodation”.    A lot of money surrounds the club, so they probably have the right lawyer to argue 100% the opposite.

There isn’t any indication that Ginni Rometty is spearheading the negative publicity toward the club.  But, thinking about it a bit, she wouldn’t exactly take the direct approach, if she did want the membership, right?   Surrogates would be used, and, well, this is what you see.    Maybe Rometty, in fact, is not interested in the specific club membership.   But there’s really no word from her about that, either, it seems.

A lot of people are getting to know that IBM has its first female CEO, and that’s good for her—and good for me.   She was one of the officials who was in Tokyo during July 2008, guiding the IBM Japan unit in its diversity initiatives.    A lot of what she focused on in her talk to us directly goes to elements of “jurisdiction” for a New York court over a wholly-owned foreign affiliate.

I hope many people become familiar with the Augusta National story, and Ms. Rometty, because it makes what I have to say easier to do, when more people know who Ms. Rometty is.

[Update:  Nice commentary on this issue from the UK Guardian's site.]