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PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem stands with Condoleezza Rice outside the clubhouse during the first round of the 2009 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 9, 2009 in Augusta, Georgia.
After more than three quarters of a century, women will for the first time be included on the membership rolls of Augusta National Golf Club, one of the most exclusive clubs in the world and the host of the Masters. Former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and executive Darla Moore were the first two women chosen to be allowed to play at the course.
Throughout its history, Augusta has been under fire for its less-than-widely-inclusive membership practices; Augusta had refused to include black members until 1991.
In 2002, the club’s leadership clashed with Martha Burk, then president of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, over its male-only membership policy. At the time, Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson had this to say, “Our membership is single gender just as many other organizations and clubs all across America. These would include Junior Leagues, sororities, fraternities, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and countless others. And we all have a moral and legal right to organize our clubs the way we wish.”
The executive editor of Golf World Magazine, Ron Sirak, said today’s announcement was “an inevitability.”
“There are many, many more women in power in the business world,” he said. “Augusta finally had to take this issue on.”
The issue of gender discrimination at Augusta came to a head after the Club did not allow female IBM CEO Ginni Rometty to join them earlier this year, despite IBM’s membership with Augusta.
But the admittance of women into Augusta is much bigger than just a round of golf — frankly, it was never just about golf.
“This is about business, old boys’ clubs at the very highest levels of corporate America and keeping women out,” said Katherine Spillar, executive vice president of the Feminist Majority Foundation and the executive editor of Ms. Magazine.
Spillar went on to explain that Augusta is about access and networking — it’s about being on the field with some of the most powerful men from the U.S. and around the world.
“It’s one more barrier that has been knocked down for women and it means … business opportunities,” she said. “Before only men had the chance to be on the golf course or in the clubhouse with these people and [to] advantage their companies, advantage their workers and now that’s going to be increasingly open to women.”
As of today, Rice and Moore will now be able to don the iconic green jackets and break into the boys’ club so many others have been barred from entering.
“That’s what this club is all about: it’s about power and it’s about important people,” Sirak said. “The more women that break into that strata of corporate power, [the more] they’ll be reflected in the Club’s membership.”
How do you feel about Augusta allowing women as members? Why do you think they decided to allow women now and not before?
Ron Sirak, Executive Editor of Golf World
Katherine Spillar, Executive Vice President, Feminist Majority Foundation and Executive Editor, Ms.Magazine