Washington Post columnist recently ridiculed
women's rights groups' crusade to open membership
in the male-only Augusta National Golf Club to women,
saying that when she lived in London and encountered
such barriers, she just met her friends at a restaurant.That
misses the point entirely. It isn't about golf or
country club meals. It's about power and equipping
women to compete for it. It's about "glass ceiling"
subtleties and informal ways to nurture professional
relationships, not just with clients but with colleagues
The guys do that kind of thing on
the golf course, in country clubs. Augusta's members
include chief executives from Fortune 100 corporations.
They wine and dine clients and invite in their proteges
to do the same unless, of course, the proteges or
clients are women.
Women have a foothold in most professions
today, but lawsuits are documenting how tenuous that
can be. Expanding the "comfort factor" between
the mostly male bosses and credentialed, up-and-coming
women is a challenge. It is made harder, of course,
if the corporation handicaps women by sponsoring men-only
"outings." That happens all too often at
huge financial services corporations, say glass-ceiling
Mary Stowell, partner in Stowell
& Friedman of Chicago, which is handling lawsuits
brought by female workers at Merrill Lynch and Citigroup's
Salomon Smith Barney, sees "a dramatic decrease
in the obviously stupid things like corporate funds
being spent at strip clubs," after suits are
One example of that behavior: Male
stockbrokers at the L.A. branch of a brokerage company
now owned by Citigroup's Salomon Smith Bamey who brought
strippers into the office, played pornographic videotapes,
and used the office speaker-phone for simulated phone
sex. In December,
an arbitration panel ordered Salomon Smith Barney
to compensate Tameron Keyes $3.2 million for damage
done by the "abusive working environment."
The lawsuit against Merrill
alleges that "women didn't get the same networking
opportunities including being invited to play golf,"
Stowell said. "These rituals are all of the bonding
in the business world, where relationships are created."
One consequence of being excluded "is women are
'the other,' the 'alien.'"
Merrill Lynch has paid $600,000 eight
women who brought the suit. Individual arbitration
CEOs from at least two corporations
with sex discrimination laws against them-- Citigroup
and Morgan Stanley-- are Augusta members.
CBS, which in October 2000 agreed
to pay 200 female technicians $8 million to settle
a discrimination lawsuit will broadcast Augusta's
Masters Tournament April 10-13.
Brokerage Morgan Stanley is in the
midst of a hotly litigated lawsuit brought in September
2001 by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
(EEOC), alleging promotion and compensation discrimination
against broker Allison Schieffelin and other professional
women. Schieffelin was fired in 2000 after bringing
an EEOC complaint that dramatized the damage done
when women professionals are excluded from company-sponsored
informal activities aimed to enhance "bonding"
between brokers and clients, and brokers and bosses.
For years, the EEOC said, Morgan
Stanley held a spring golf outing at the Doral Resort
in Florida, inviting four to six men from Schieffelin's
department and up to 16 major clients-- including
some of hers. After dinner, the men surfed Miami's
strip joints and topless clubs. In 1998, men she worked
with invited clients, again including some of hers,
to a weekend in Las Vegas. She couldn't go, a boss
told her, "because the men would be uncomfortable
participating in sexually oriented entertainment with
a woman colleague present, especially one who knew
Council of Womens Organizations (NCWO), led by
Martha Burk, set up www.augustadiscriminates.org,
a Web site that profiles corporations that talk big
about diversity but whose CEOs belong to Augusta.
Some folks are noticing.
At a January 28 hearing on U.S. Olympic
mismanagement, two congressmen grilled the Olympic
chief, Lloyd Ward, who is black, about why he was
a member of Augusta. (His weak response: He wanted
to "open the door wider for those that might
And President Bush nominee for Treasury
secretary, railroad executive John Snow, resigned
his Augusta membership within hours after White House
reporter Helen Thomas asked about it.