THE BLOG

Seeking Advocates, Not Members

04/12/2013 06:09 pm ET | Updated Jun 12, 2013

I am about to write on a subject of which I know very little -- golf. Scratch that...

This week marks an important occasion in golf, sports and, quite frankly, the campaign for equality. For the first time, female members of the Augusta National Golf Club will be present at the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, GA.

The Augusta National Golf Club has long come under attack over its all-male membership, but added two female members last summer: Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state, and Darla Moore, a South Carolina businesswoman.

For those of you keeping score, Augusta National refused to grant membership to IBM's then new CEO Virginia Rometty, though they had invited her four male predecessors. As a sponsor of the tournament, IBM brought Rometty to the tournament to "entertain clients." She wore a pink jacket, rather than the traditional green jacket worn by club members. Whoever said 'clothes make the woman' clearly wasn't much of a golf enthusiast. In any case, the power of bad public relations was proven once again as it was the likely impetus behind their decision to admit women (albeit only two).

When getting ready this morning, I watched Darla Moore interviewed on the TODAY show about the momentous occasion. And then I heard it -- the words that left me deflated and demoralized -- the final exchange between the interviewer and Moore. The reporter closed the interview by asking if she would be pushing for more female members, to which she said the following: "I wouldn't think that would be something I would do. I'm very happy and honored to be one of the first members, but that wouldn't be my role there. I'm a member, I'm not an advocate.''

I stopped mid-mascara and thought about the impact of those simple words: "I'm a member, not an advocate."

What good is being the first if you don't use the position to advocate for those who wish to follow? The whole purpose of breaking barriers and glass ceilings is to make more room for others to pass through. If more women were to follow Moore and Rice through the black hole, they would have a far greater chance of being treated as equals once they are on the green course.

The issue goes far beyond golf and far beyond women. Augusta National did not invite its first African-American member until 1990 and up until 1983, all caddies at the Masters were black employees of the club.

Yes, this year's tournament will, in many ways, be a celebration, but a slightly hollow one. "Women in green jackets may indeed be awesome. But it's not a breakthrough. It is simply catching up," as Jason Gay said in his Wall Street Journal piece, "Augusta Opens a Door."

As a result of the original controversy, women's organizations helped bring sex discrimination lawsuits against major corporations whose CEOs were club members. The suits resulted in companies deciding not to reimburse business expenses that are related to male-only or discriminatory entertainment venues.

"Yes, I can Walk in These" was born out of a conversation about a memorable pair of boots. Think it's time gave golf shoes a try. Anyone is welcome to join for a round, though please keep the following in mind: Advocates Only Need Apply.