April 8, 2019 | Written by: Deb Bubb
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IBM Chairman and CEO, Ginni Rometty, joins former U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, Annika Sorenstam, Heidi Ueberroth and female collegiate student-athletes from Georgia and South Carolina, at Augusta National Golf Club, Saturday, April 6, 2019. (See below for full list of attendees.)
First held in 1934, the Masters Golf Tournament is played each spring in Augusta, Georgia. It’s an event steeped in history and tradition, hosted by the world-famous Augusta National Golf Club and with the winner receiving a coveted Green Jacket. For over 20 years, IBM has been a proud partner of the Masters, pioneering the digital experience for fans across the world.
But this year is a little different. For the first time, female golfers were invited to play in the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur (ANWA). As the world’s largest women’s amateur golf Championship, ANWA is helping change the history of the Masters and Augusta National, showcasing the important role female golfers play in the sport.
As we celebrate the female golfers who played in ANWA, showcasing their tremendous skill and genuine support of each other’s success, I’m thinking too about another inspiring group. During the final day of the tournament, 30 female student-athletes from neighboring universities were invited to spend the day with IBM on Augusta National’s famed grounds. In addition to playing a sport—whether golf or soccer, volleyball or swimming—these young women are also earning degrees in predominately male-dominated disciplines like business, mathematics, and computer science.
As part of the experience that day, IBM hosted a luncheon for these student-athletes with Chairman and CEO, Ginni Rometty; Vice President of Talent, Obed Louissaint; and me. Through my interactions, I saw a common thread. Yes, they are all collegiate athletes who come from diverse backgrounds and possess unique experiences and perspectives. But these women are also poised to become leaders and influencers in the fields they will soon be entering. They’re clearly driven to succeed and equipped already with some of the most important skills they’ll need to thrive, including grit, resilience, and learning agility.
Following Women’s History Month and the publication of our latest Institute for Business Value (IBV) Study, Women, Leadership, and the Priority Paradox, which analyzes the results of a worldwide survey of 2,300 organizations, this day and week couldn’t have been more timely.
As Ginni highlighted, the benefits of women in leadership roles in organizations are well documented. In fact, as the findings of the IBV study confirm, companies who make gender equality a business priority are outperforming their competition in core areas like profitability, innovation, and employee satisfaction. At IBM, we take great pride in our diverse leadership and inclusive culture. And it’s why we invest in initiatives like the Tech Re-Entry Program to promote women in the workforce—because here, inclusion is a top business priority.
One interaction I had with a student-athlete stands out. Her name is Grace Cherrey, a gymnast and honor-roll student from the University of Georgia, who’s pursuing a degree in business and interested in a career in corporate sales and marketing. Thanks to tremendous determination and a growth mindset, Grace is excelling both in her sport and in her academics despite injuries and challenges. Already a poised leader, she gave thoughtful feedback on how to bring our program to even more student-athletes and offered to be an ambassador for next year’s event—exactly the kind of self-directed leadership we expect from IBMers.
When asked about career aspirations, there was no hesitation, no second guessing with these student-athletes. These women are soon entering the workforce, some as interns with IBM, and they are ready to lead. To attract more of this talent, we need to continue creating a culture of gender equality—where contributions are valued and potential achieved—and leading with our commitment to diversity and inclusion.
It was a special and historic occasion—for the golfers participating in ANWA, the student-athletes invited to Augusta National, and IBM. I’m honored to have been a part of it, and as the mother of a daughter and son, I look forward to the future we are building, where each of us are both challenged and supported to live up to our fullest potential.
Pictured Above (L-R): Anita Uwadia, Gabrielle Amos, Amy Hunter, Madeline Lutwyche, Caroline Lee, Grace Cherrey, Chanin Scott, Condoleezza Rice, Annika Sorenstam, Lauren Chang, Marion Veysseyre, Heidi Ueberroth, Courtney Kozak, Ginni Rometty, Kirklen Petersen, Lois Kaye Go.