Something's been ruminating in my brain. When a topic gets swept under the rug or dropped like a hot potato amongst "the powers that be" in corporate America, or in the business world at-large, it stirs my soul and I'm moved to speak.
Here's what I'm referring to: IBM CEO Virginia Rometty and the Augusta National Golf Club. As history recorded, she attended the 2012 Masters at Augusta, but in a pink jacket... not a green one.
On April 8, 2012, The Wall Street Journal reported:
Bubba Watson won his first green jacket in a thrilling overtime finish at the Masters tournament, but the question of whether the all-male Augusta National Golf Club would invite IBM's new CEO, Virginia M. Rometty, to become its first female member remained unsettled.
International Business Machines Corp. is one of three corporate sponsors of the Masters. Augusta National, which hosts the event in Augusta, Ga., has offered membership to the past four IBM CEOs. But because of the club's all-male policy, it is unclear whether an invitation has been extended to Ms. Rometty, who took over the CEO job at the beginning of the year. IBM and the club declined to say whether she had been invited to join...
Perhaps you, like me, have been wondering... what ever happened with this? Perhaps you, like me, have been waiting for someone (or several someones) to have a REAL, public conversation about this issue. Perhaps you, like me, have had it! Are we really doing this again? Seriously?
And, by the way, here's what happened with it... NOTHING. Nothing, at least, in the PUBLIC domain. I would like to think that there are courageous conversations happening in the background. Unfortunately, I doubt it.
Why weren't others outraged? Who made a phone call? Did the CEOs of the two other major sponsors at Augusta -- AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and Exxon Mobil CEO Rex W. Tillerson? No. Did ANY CEO or c-suite of ANY major Fortune 100, Fortune 500 or Fortune 1000 company? No. Did the president of our country? No. (Although his press secretary told reporters that Obama..."believes Augusta should admit women," adding that it was "kind of long past the time when women should be excluded from anything." Romney, too, agreed that women should be allowed in.)
Not only did Stephenson and Tillerson NOT make a phone call, but both of their offices released statements "declining to comment on the issue."
Rometty herself even declined to comment when asked.
It is time, my friends.
It is time to proactively and fearlessly address issues like this. It is time to make a phone call. It is time to take a stand against outdated beliefs and biases. It is time to have a courageous conversation. It is time for EACH of us to USE our voice -- or these kinds of injustices will continue.
Our Declaration of Independence states that we are all created equal. We say we want to be the role model for the rest of the world, yet we can't even have a conversation as to why a female can't be a member of Augusta?
As leaders, we are taught, coached and mentored to not shy away from difficult discussions, topics and situations. This is one of those discussions fueled by outdated beliefs and biases.
We live in an era when conscience is coming to bear. There are companies and leaders out there who HAVE taken a stand. Mattel has taken a stand and will not partner with vendors who employ underage workers. In addition, Proctor & Gamble has taken a stand and will not use vendors who damage the earth through the production of their products.
It is time for the women's empowerment initiative to get center stage. No more standing on the principle, yet not walking it out. Let's take a look at the way we do business. Let's take an honest look at WHO we do business with and WHAT they believe when it comes to women in leadership positions.
And let's start the PUBLIC courageous conversations about equity for women in corporate America today. Right now.
Why do you and I need to start it? Because silence is endorsement.
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
-Martin Luther King, Jr.