The Augusta National Golf Club's no women allowed policy has been in the headlines for the last couple of days. The golf club's membership is populated by Spanky and Alfalfa of Our Gang fame, who would on occasion declare that their clubhouse was off limits--no girls allowed!
Since it's inception in 1933, Augusta hasn't allowed women to become members and just began allowing black males to wear the hallowed green jacket in 1990. The headlines pose the same question, Masters Controversy: Should Augusta Golf Club Admit Its First Female Member? Why now? Well, in addition to its tradition of not admitting women, Augusta also traditionally bestows membership on the CEOs of the Masters' three corporate sponsors. One of those sponsors is IBM, and its CEO is a woman, Ginni Rometty.
Augusta is confronted with a quandry as to which tradition to follow, the one that discriminates and treats women as second class citizens or the one that bestows a green jacket on the CEOs of the corporate sponsors of the Masters. What are chauvinistic reprobates with 19th century values to do?
It's 2012, this should not even be a question that needs to be asked. Membership in the club isn't simply about playing golf. These all male networks developed as social and business organizations. At the time of their inception, women did not play any role in the world of business or industry.
However, for some time now women have been making their way in a formerly male dominated world of business and industry. To deny women access to forums where much of the networking that is an essential part of the business world takes place is to impede the ability of women to fully participate and compete in the world of business and industry.
News anchor, Paula Faris, of ABC's World News Now, defended Augusta's practice declaring that it is a private club and it's exclusion of women is no big deal, after all there are boy scouts and girl scouts, and girls schools and boys schools. Paula, you need to go back and think it through a bit more.
This discriminatory tradition is not comparable to girl scouts and boy scouts, organizations primarily intended for children and where no one indulges in making business deals involving major corporations. Nor is it comparable to private schools segregated by gender. I personally find such gender separated institutions abhorrent, and a poor preparation for a world that isn't neatly divided by genitalia. However, I'm not making that argument today. Instead my focus is the exclusion of women from the big boys club where power deal are brokered and significant business connections are made.
We cannot have institutions that are a key part of the world of business be
closed to women based on antiquated notions of a woman's role in society or her lack of a role in the world of business.
If Augusta wishes to maintain it's male only status then it needs to strictly be a golf club and the only negotiations by its members need to be about golf. Augusta has made itself into an important cog in the world of business and industry and as such it should not be allowed to deny membership based on gender any more than it can deny membership based on race or ethnicity.
The days of "No Jews and No Coloreds" at the golf course are over. It's time to bury the "No Women Allowed" policy along side of them.
By the way, word is that Ginni Rometty plays golf.