Business, gendered inequality, & Augusta National Golf Club

Sports matter. They matter because sports have important connections with a host of social, cultural, political, and economic issues in society. One example of how sports matter is the important place of golf in the world of business. Some might argue that more business often gets done of the golf course than in the boardroom. This is the case because activities such as golf have an important role in forming personal connections, and people often like to do business with their friends. When one considers the gendered inequality that exists in the world of business (only 28 women hold CEO jobs at Fortune 1000 companies), it becomes clear that the issue of women’s membership at Augusta National Golf Club is not just a struggle about golf, but a struggle over power in the world of business.

In a 2004 Golf for Women magazine survey of 1,000 businesswomen, 73 percent said playing golf has helped them develop key business relationships (January-February issue). In that same issue of Golf for Women, Ruth Ann Marshall, current President of the Americas for MasterCard, talked about the role of golf in her business success. Specifically, when she had become CEO of Buypass, a company that processes retailing transactions, one of her first executive decisions was to buy tickets to the Masters Tournament. She used these tickets to invite people with whom she wanted to do business (CEOs of petroleum and supermarket companies) to the Masters, which allowed her to form relationships she wouldn’t have otherwise been able to develop.

If women were allowed to be members at August National, they could similarly invite potential business contacts to play a round at the prestigious course, thus developing key relationships. However, because women are denied membership, female executives are precluded from engaging in such connection-building activity, which plays a role in perpetuating the gendered inequality that exists in the world of business.

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