My piece this week on the exclusion of IBM CEO Ginny Rometty from the traditional invite to membership at Augusta golf course as a corporate sponsor for the Masters (because she has a uterus), brought a flurry of some of the most Neanderthal reader mail we have seen in some time. Ironic to me, since a male friend brought this issue to my attention in the first place. It was refreshing to see some men take the time to articulate an insightful case against the status quo here. Mohamed El-Erian wrote a thoughtful piece on when “tradition” fails as justification for antiquated policies. It always seems to have greatest impact when someone in a chosen group stands up for those who are excluded. (Surely Mohamed can’t be simply dismissed as a man-hater). Here is El-Erian:
“Like millions of Americans, I learnt last week that the famous Augusta National Golf Club does not admit women members. I found the news astonishing, especially for a club that hosts the prestigious Masters Tournament. It was also hard to ignore in the face of questioning by my 8-year-old daughter…
My daughter is right. There is no good reason to exclude women from Augusta.
Talent is not an excuse as I suspect that there are women interested in joining who are better golfers than current members of the Club. Even worse is last week’s statement by an Augusta official that “it is up to current members.” How could he ignore a set of fundamental rights, responsibilities and obligations that form the basis of good governance and civilized interactions?
My daughter’s innocent questioning should be considered not just by the members of Augusta but also by the thousands of golfers who aspire to play on one of the very best courses in the United States. It also highlights the dilemma facing Augusta’s sponsors who may well field more questions about their financial support.
Most importantly, my daughter identified one of the reasons why, even in 2012, something as obvious as gender equality continues to face an uphill battle. “Tradition” is once again used to legitimize an outdated and harmful practice. And this unfortunate situation extends well beyond a famous golf club in Georgia; and the implications are much more consequential.
Tradition often serves as a cover for ignorance and biases, both overt and unconscious. And this mix inhibits women’s opportunities worldwide”…
Those interested in further food for thought can read the whole article here.