I like to watch the final rounds of the Masters as much as the next person. This weekend was no exception. But I think the time has come for responsible people and companies to stand together against sexism. Founded in 1933, Augusta National, the traditional venue of the Masters, still has a male-only mandate.
Actually up until 1990, Augusta had a white-guys-only mandate until social pressure moved them to admit their first black member in 1990. 1990!! 7 years later Tiger Woods made history as the first man of African-American heritage to win the championship at Augusta.
Traditionally each year the senior executives of the major corporate sponsors of the Masters are offered membership at Augusta. This year it so happens that one of the key sponsors–IBM–is headed by a woman, Ginny Rometty. Ms. Rometty was excluded from the invitation list extended to the other male executives.
When asked about the club’s official position at a press conference on the weekend, Augusta Chairman, Bill Payne, fumbled behind the privacy of their membership process to evade the question. It was embarrassing to watch. Here is the direct link.
Here is the thing. Exclusion based on sex should be just as intolerable as exclusion based on the color of one’s skin. If Augusta does not want to move into the 21st century on this antiquated policy then I think it calls for conscientious companies–and indeed the Masters tournament itself–to turn its back and funnel all of its event revenue away from Augusta to a more progressive venue.
I am sometimes asked why I think there are still so few women leading corporations or sitting in position of influence on corporate boards. I believe that the tolerance of a “boys-club” mentality is a major part of the hurdles to equality here. Those who disagree with policies of exclusion have to stand up. Tolerance of inequality helps to perpetrate it. The Masters and its corporate sponsors should tell Augusta they will no longer be a party to discrimination. Time to grow up a little.