HP’s Whitman: Augusta’s Decision to Admit Women ‘Affects Me Personally’

Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman doesn’t golf, but Augusta National’s decision this week to admit female members for the first time in its 80-year history affected her “personally as a woman,” she said today.

“I was delighted,” Whitman said in an interview. “Darla Moore and Condoleezza Rice — you know what? It’s great to be a pioneer in breaking down the barriers that had been in place for a long time.”

“I don’t golf,” she said. “It affects me personally as a woman.”

The Augusta, Georgia, club, which hosts the Masters Tournament, had previously been the domain of men — white ones at that until 1990. On Monday, it welcomed Rice, the former U.S. secretary of State, and Moore, a partner at investment company Rainwater Inc. and wife of its billionaire founder, Richard Rainwater. About a decade ago, former Augusta chairman William “Hootie” Johnson said he wouldn’t admit a woman even at bayonet point.

It was another female tech chief executive, IBM’s Ginni Rometty, who helped pave the way. Augusta National Golf Club has historically invited IBM’s CEOs to join, including its last four. Rometty, who became the first woman to be chief executive at Big Blue, wasn’t asked to join the club, opening it to new scrutiny.

Rice and Moore’s admission caused Whitman, who also sits on the boards of Procter & Gamble and Zipcar,  to give a cheer.

“I woke up that morning, I saw it on the news and I said, ‘Way to go.’”

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