How Augusta National's policy affects all working women
Augusta National's refusal to offer IBM CEO Virginia Rometty honorary membership helps legitimizes discrimination in other parts of the business world.
Tue, Apr 10 2012 at 11:03 AM
NO GREEN JACKET: IBM CEO Virgina Rometty. Rometty was seen throughout the weekend during the Masters without the traditional green jacket symbolic of membership in the Augusta National club. (Photo: Jon Iwata/IBM/AFP)
When Bubba Watson put on the green jacket celebrating his win at the Masters Golf Tournament, he joined the tradition of Augusta National Golf Club. However, the exclusive golf club's discriminatory practices toward women have tarnished the celebration. And, according to one lawyer, it could have broader implications for all working women.
Augusta National Golf Club is notorious for its refusal to allow female members. This year, the issue was once again in the spotlight when club chairman Billy Payne fielded questions about allowing IBM Chief Executive Officer Virginia "Ginni" Rometty honorary membership. IBM is a major sponsor of the Masters and all previous IBM CEOs had been given honorary membership to the club. Payne sidestepped the question and Rometty was seen throughout the weekend without the traditional green jacket symbolic of membership in the club.
According to David Scher, an attorney for the Employment Law Group , which has offices in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles, said the club's exclusive policy might have implications for all working women.
"This is not the only place that this is happening," said Scher, managing principal of The Employment Law Group who handles workplace gender discrimination cases. "Free association allows all kinds of clubs, but there are lots of men's organizations that keep women out of the workforce and it is really time for that to change."
These practices, according to Scher, bring a much more deep-seated issue to the forefront.
"It is time for this type of discrimination to end. It serves no purpose other than to make it harder for women and minorities to succeed," said Scher. "Playing golf and other pastimes is integral to the business world, and outright discrimination against women in the private golf world, although technically legal, can have a severe and lasting illegal impact in the workplace." [World's Most Ethical Companies Revealed]
Scher noted that a club such as Augusta National, which has such notoriety and popularity employing these practices, in effect legitimizes this behavior in other parts of the business world.
"It may seem silly to some of us, but it is a huge slap in the face and it is offensive," said Scher. "This keeps women down in the workplace and it is legitimizing discrimination. Also what is the message we are sending to young people coming up in the workforce? If you are a woman, don’t even try to be a sales executive or don’t try to compete because you won't get there."
Reversing such a decision, according to Scher, would be a huge victory for equality in the workplace all over.
"It would be a huge boon not only for women in the workplace but for society in general if something like this relaxed these policies a bit," said Scher. "I am not saying that these clubs need to let everyone woman join, but these clubs should start to be a little more logical and rational about who they let in and why and what the basis is for doing so. I don’t think there should be a blanket policy that is unfair and doesn’t make sense."
Reach BusinessNewsDaily staff writer David Mielach at DMielach@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @D_M89.
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