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Augusta National Golf Club announced former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and business executive Darla Moore as its first female members this week. But many media reports and social-media comments question the sincerity and timing of the club's decision to end its 80-year-old men-only policy.
Some Twitter users said Augusta National's "motives were questionable at best" and wondered why an LPGA "pro wasn't first or even at all" offered membership. Some "suspect sponsor pressure had something to do with it."
IBM's Female CEO
Augusta National's men-only policy came under increased scrutiny during the Master's Tournament this April after Augusta National failed to extend membership to IBM's CEO Virginia Rometty, the company's first female CEO. Augusta National traditionally offers membership to CEOs of the tournament's sponsors—this year, that included IBM, AT&T and Exxon—that contribute about $18 million annually. IBM is No. 17 and AT&T is No. 4 in The 2012 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list.
All four of Rometty's male predecessors received membership. Rex Tillerson of Exxon and Randall Stephenson of AT&T are also members.
Rometty, who does play golf, later attended the Master's sporting a pink jacket, reports Forbes, creating further criticism of Augusta as well as its corporate sponsors' decision to endorse its discriminatory practices.
Stephenson applauded Augusta's addition of Rice and Moore. He said in a statement: "As a sponsor of The Masters, we applaud today's historic announcement by Augusta National and warmly welcome Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore as members of Augusta National."
The club's membership policies have come under attack multiple times in the last couple of decades. Augusta's first Black member was admitted in 1990 as a response to civil-rights protests at Alabama's Shoal Creek Country Club.
Similarly, National Council of Women's Organizations' Martha Burk organized a protest in 2002 that pressured Augusta National to remove its gender barrier, as DiversityInc reported in "What in the @#!% Is Wrong With Golf?" But then-chairman William "Hootie" Johnson stood firm on the club's policy, refusing to allow what he termed "social pressure" to be the catalyst for change.
Burk notes to news sources that her protest greatly influenced Augusta, along with continued attention from other women's groups. "My first reaction was, we won -- and we did," Burk says. "We gave them a pretty big black eye in April … And I think they knew they could not sustain it."
ESPN journalist Bob Harig writes that Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne was "waiting for the right time, the right place, the right way" to veer away from his predecessor's decision. He notes that Payne may have shown his more inclusive sentiments after the 1996 Olympics had to exclude golf because of Augusta's men-only policy. Payne said the event was his "biggest personal disappointment."
Charlie Hanger, executive editor of Golf.com, disagrees. "Payne seemed genuinely flustered with the harsh questioning this year, and I wonder if behind closed doors that led him to push for the change. The issue was clearly not going away, so they really didn't have much of a choice," he writes.
Baby Steps to Gender Equality
Is Payne's decision purely out of good will? Or is it a PR-savvy play? One article on BleacherReport suggests that Augusta's motives remain gray and highlights that two women among the club's speculated 300 male members isn't enough to "all join hands and start singing." Augusta's new 0.6-percent representation is well below the total 20 women now serving as Fortune 500 CEOs (a total of 4.0 percent).
Rice is the first Black woman to serve as secretary of state, and Moore, vice president of Rainwater, was the first woman to be featured on a cover of Fortune magazine.
The golf industry has traditionally been a white and male sport. The formation of the LPGA in 1950 and star Black golf players Joe Louis in 1952 and Tiger Woods in 1997 helped the sport gain publicity in the public eye. In 2010, core golfers totaled 18.0 percent women, up 17.8 percent from 2005, according to the National Golf Foundation. Black core golfers total 3.9 percent, Latinos total 7.7 percent and Asians total 8.9 percent of core golfers, says research from the 2009 World Golf Foundation.
Diversity & Inclusion at Your Office
Currently, women account for 50.8 percent (157.2 million) of the total U.S. population and about 49.8 percent of the world population. Our Women's History Month Facts & Figures show that women increasingly are obtaining educational degrees and assuming management roles.
DiversityInc Top 50 companies, in particular those in The 2012 DiversityInc Top 10 Companies for Executive Women, have made progress in achieving parity in representation. That's why they have more women in top management and CEO positions (8 percent) than the Fortune 500 and are able to connect to the marketplace better.
Here are their best practices for recruiting and promoting women:
Resource groups: Also known as business resource groups or networks, resource groups are particularly helpful for enhancing the talent development of women, providing a peer support system and gaining insight into the key concerns/needs of your female customers.
Mentoring: Our DiversityInc Top 50 data reveals that mentoring is a key way to improve retention, engagement and promotion rates for women. More on mentoring is available in this diversity web seminar.
Work/Life Benefits: Keeping women in line positions so they can reach senior management is one of the top challenges organizations face. Providing telecommuting, flexible work schedules and onsite childcare, among other work/life options, are not just company "perks" anymore but key strategies for approaching the global talent war. Additionally, a DiversityInc networking event on global female talent development revealed that leaders also need to educate managers about the need for flexibility. Watch the video below.