Unless you've been living under a rock, you've more than likely heard about former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina businesswoman Darla Moore becoming the first female members of Augusta National Golf Club. For the first time in its 80-year history, women will be allowed in. A true victory!
All I have to say is...it's about damn time! I mean, come on, it's 2012, for heaven's sake!
Many times and in various situations we are called to be the spark. We've observed throughout history that the person who sows the seed doesn't always reap the reward. Or, as one of my wise college professors said, "Some sow the seeds. Others reap the reward."
Starting back in 2002, Martha Burk with the National Council of Women's Organizations was the sower -- the spark. When the NCWO wrote a letter that year to Augusta respectfully requesting they reconsider their stand on women, Chairman (at the time) Hootie Johnson, made it clear no change would happen on his watch. Burk shares the following in an August 21, 2012, CNN article:
Had [we] backed down then, we wouldn't be celebrating now. Had we not changed the conversation... and kept it front and center every year at tournament time... the issue would have quietly died away. Maybe for another century.
Earlier this year, when newly-named IBM CEO Ginny Rometty was not allowed into the Augusta membership as all her preceding male counterparts had been (as one of the main sponsors of the Masters), that was the final spark that exploded the fire. Club leaders knew their outdated beliefs couldn't be sustained. They knew they had to react.
As women's sports pioneer, Billie Jean King, tweeted, "Slowly but surely lots of crumbs add up to a cake."
So what's the take-away from this for us as a society -- including for corporate America? A grave and important leadership lesson we can call "The Augusta Factor:"
Do the right thing right away. Rather than being reactive (like Augusta leadership), be proactive. Rather than taking 10 years for positive action, let's make it 10 minutes. Whatever has to happen behind the scenes -- get it done.
Let's do it right the first time because it IS right. Period.
I'm reminded of a phrase I used to use with my children when they were small. When I told them to do something, I expected them to do it -- "the first time given." Not the second time I told them, not the third, not the 10th. The first. Every time. Because I knew what I was telling them was the right thing to do, the safe thing -- the best thing for them.
That same concept must be applied to situations like this one. And corporate America's leaders (majority men) have much work to do when walking this "Augusta Factor" out. Women make up merely 16 percent of Fortune 500 board members and barely 5 percent of CEO positions. Like Augusta, women aren't really "welcome" into the highest ranks of the business world. Not yet anyway.
As Burk's final words in her article clearly show, the membership of Augusta alone has the power to be the change agents women in corporate America desperately need:
...through business relationships and corporate board seats, Augusta membership reaches over 1,300 companies and major charities. That's a lot of influence. Let's hope they use it right before the turn of another century.
Amen to that! Let's get to work! The first time given.