Report: Female CEO expected at Masters

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Virginia M. Rometty, chief executive of IBM, is expected to attend the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club, a move that likely will bring more attention to a now-raging controversy over whether the all-male golf club should admit female members, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Rometty’s case presents a uniquely delicate problem for IBM and the tournament, considered one of golf’s most prestigious. IBM is one of the Masters’ longtime corporate sponsors.

Rometty, who plays golf but is more partial to scuba diving, is the technology giant’s first female CEO. She has not spoken about whether she has any interest in becoming a member of the club.

Augusta has offered membership to a number of IBM CEOs, but its all-male policy means no such invitation has been extended for Rometty.

Earlier in the week, it was not clear whether Rometty would attend the tournament, which started Thursday. In the ensuing days, her situation has become a subject of fevered national debate.

The White House on Thursday joined the chorus of those urging Augusta to abandon its policy against admitting female members.

IBM CEO Virginia Rometty, shown in a Feb. 16, 2006 file photo

In this Feb. 16, 2006, file photo, Virginia Rometty, at the time an IBM senior vice president, speaks in New York. Rometty is the technology giant’s first female CEO. Augusta has offered membership to a number of IBM CEOs, but its all-male policy means no such invitation has been extended for Rometty.

Dima Gavrysh, File/AP Photo

“His personal opinion is that women should be admitted to the club,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in response to a question about President Barack Obama’s views on the matter during his daily briefing Thursday.

“We’re long past the time when women should be excluded from anything,” he added, noting that he had discussed the issue with the president prior to the briefing.

Women can play as guests of members of the club, but they are not allowed to become members.

Obama’s likely challenger in the fall, Mitt Romney, was asked during a campaign stop in Pennsylvania later Thursday whether Augusta should admit female members.

“Well, of course,” he said. “Certainly if I were a member, and if I could run Augusta, which isn’t likely to happen, but of course I’d have women in Augusta, sure,” he said.

The private club’s male-only member policy is brought up for debate annually during the week of the major.

Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne declined to answer a slew of questions during his annual pre-tournament news conference Wednesday, saying only that “all issues of membership are now and have been historically subject to the private deliberations of the members.”

The policy against female membership goes back to the Georgia club’s founding in 1933.

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