The 2012 Masters Golf tournament is over and winning the 2nd hole of a sudden-death playoff left Bubba Walters in tears… of joy. It was wonderful to see the golfer display unbridled emotion, which helped us understand the depth of his happiness with the accomplishment and how much (and how sincerely) he appreciates being where he is. I love happy endings, especially when the people on the receiving end seem to really merit them.
What is missing, however, is an ending to the controversy over women’s membership at Augusta. This matter seems to have been swept under the rug.
From a PR perspective, I can understand that the organizers, and sponsors, would want the spotlight to be firmly on the event, the prestigious weekend-long competition among the world’s best golfers. They would want to avoid anything that might dilute or divert the focus from the tournament.
From a Marketing viewpoint, it would be all about business. The focus is the golf, the sport, the players, the Augusta course and facility, the equipment, the opportunity to reach target users and increase awareness, unhindered by ‘noise” or controversy.
This may be the reason why Virginia Rometty, the first of the last 5 CEOs of IBM NOT to be a member of Augusta, didn’t comment, get involved or take a stand. Perhaps she was being professional and wanted to make sure it wasn’t about her, but about the game of golf.
Some women (and I am not for a moment suggesting that Ms Rometty is one of them) don’t care about the gender issue, some women want to quietly do what needs to be done to run the business. There are women who feel that, by demonstrating effective leadership and accomplishment, they are doing their part in helping to advance the cause of women. And some women do care, but they choose support over action, for many reasons, from personality to peer pressure.
They prefer not to make waves. And sometimes this is perfectly understandable. Each of us has to pick our battles in the context of what is happening in our lives, personally.
A Generational Issue or a Contrast in Styles?
I am wondering, thought, if this is s a generational issue? Or, it is a difference in personal styles?
I’m thinking back over the last several months where Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, has taken the opportunity several times to speak publicly about issues related to women in business. She has clearly and repeatedly taken a position to openly offer her perspective, recommendations and advice.
There are only 10 years difference in age between Virginia Rometty and Sheryl Sandberg, but Ms Sandberg seems to be tackle the issue of gender inequality head on and publicly, where Virginia Rometty seems to avoid open conflict.
While intellectually, I respect Virginia’s position of professional non-involvement (probably because I have a hard time keeping my own mouth shut), emotionally I lament the missed opportunity to take a stand, raise awareness, make a difference and support other women in their efforts to achieve the same privileges as their male counterparts.
I vividly recall Sheryl Sandberg’s Ted Talk about what women need to do in business to help position themselves as equals. Her first practical and valuable piece of advice is “Sit at the Table.” Virginia Rometty did not sit at the table.
As a result, a valuable opportunity was missed.
Obviously I am not the only person who feels that way. Techcrunch’s Eileen Burbidge wrote an eloquent open letter to Ms Rometty, asking her “Why you and your company continue to sponsor the U.S. Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Country Club?”
I have not yet seen a response.
So much for a happy ending!
Note: Bubba Watson has stated publicly that he thinks membership at Augusta should be open to women. Thanks for the support, and the courage to take a stand, Bubba!