Monday’s announcement that former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and prominent South Carolina businesswoman Darla Moore were accepted as the first female members of the Augusta National Golf Club ended the club’s all-male member tradition dating back to when it first opened for play in January 1933.
The golf club has long defended its membership policies, stressing that it is a private organization. Dr. Drucilla Barker, Director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at USC calls it another crack in the “glass ceiling” as women continue to gain more influence in business and politics. “For women like Darla Moore and Condoleezza Rice it was a breakthrough and I’m sure Martha Burk is just dancing in the streets with happiness because she fought that for so long. It’s really great for cracking the glass ceiling.”
In 2003 women’s rights activist Martha Burk led a protest against the club and worked to put pressure on corporate leaders to withdraw their support for the organization and the Masters. Augusta National admitted its first African-American male member in 1990.
Barker says while the naming of women to the club can be called a benchmark moment, for the vast majority of women the proverbial “glass ceiling” remains all too real. “Cracking the glass ceiling for a few elite women does not really change the conditions for most of the women in the United States or in the rest of the world who struggled with the double day shift, who struggle with poverty, who struggle with being single moms, who still makes only 77 cents for every dollar a man makes.”
The gender gap is continuing to close as American women have passed men in gaining advanced college degrees as well as bachelor’s degrees. Barker says as these women take on leadership roles they must serve as advocates for other women who are looking for upward mobility and successful careers. “I think you must have women who are advocates for other women who are less fortunate and less privileged because if you don’t they just advocate for the status quo which has served them very well obviously, but does not benefit the vast majority of women.”
Barker says as young girls see more examples of women in positions of leadership and influence, they will be inspired to chase their dreams which would no doubt include breaking barriers in a myriad of fields that have long been dominated by men. “The more women that we have (in positions of influence) the better it will be, and that is certainly true for getting into Augusta, or becoming an engineer, or becoming a CEO. We need to start building a critical mass.”