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All-male Augusta National overlooks Virginia Rometty. Should IBM complain?

Augusta National Golf Club, host of the Masters, has offered membership to the CEOs of sponsor IBM in the past. But it hasn't let in new CEO Virginia Rometty, potentially causing problems for IBM.

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“You would think that Augusta would be very sensitive, even embarrassed about its exclusionary past – this was a club that was very much about Jim Crow for the first five decades of its existence,” says Professor Starn, author of “The Passion of Tiger Woods.” “Apparently, they refuse to discard their anachronistic, stick-to-their-guns mentality.”

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But some observers say the outcry over Augusta's member list misses the point. The women's rights movement has moved well beyond caring about an exclusive golf club in Georgia.

“Augusta’s intransigence is becoming increasingly irrelevant in the battle for equal rights," says Jason Maloni, senior vice president of sports and entertainment for Levick Strategic Communications in Washington. "Women have ignored Augusta like Germany ignored the Maginot Line in World War II.”

Others say it's not Ms. Rometty's job to play pioneer. 

“Rometty’s job is to do her best to lead IBM and do a great job at that,” says Justine Siegal, the first female coach of a men’s professional baseball team, the Brockton Rox of the independent Canadian American league. “If she whines about Augusta, it will be taking away from what she needs to do."

"It is up to society and others within IBM to fight this battle over membership,” adds Ms. Siegal, who is now director of sports partnership for Sport in Society at Northeastern University

Perhaps that activism should start within the Professional Golfers' Association (PGA) itself, says Ben Agger, director of the Center for Theory at the University of Texas at Arlington’s sociology department.

"Augusta National’s anachronistic apartheid, keeping women out, is best met by a PGA players’ boycott," says Dr. Agger. “It is fine to expect the woman CEO of IBM to force the issue, but the PGA has much more leverage. It is unimaginable that men’s professional tennis players, a thoroughly global bunch, would countenance one of their four 'majors' being held at a facility that barred women or any other group."

RECOMMENDED: 12 candidates for a female member at Augusta

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