Burk Targets Companies With Masters Ties

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WASHINGTON -- Martha Burk's road to change Augusta National's policies is taking a detour through Wall Street.
 
Having failed to persuade the home of the Masters Tournament to admit a female member with a protest near the club's grounds a year ago, the women's rights advocate this week is setting out on an initiative to target financial companies whose top executives are members of the club.
 
'Of course, following the money has always been the way to get change,' said Burk, head of the National Council of Women's Organizations. 'We've said since last year we were going to turn our attention to the corporate side of the controversy. It's not about golf. It is about power. It is about corporate power.'
 
The initiative is aimed at gathering information to determine whether there are cases of sex discrimination at American Express, Bank of America, Franklin Templeton, J.P. Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, CitiGroup, Berkshire Hathaway and Prudential. All have either a chairman or a CEO who is a member at Augusta.
 
Burk said her group already has heard from women at most of the companies.
 
'We want to hear from more women - to see if there is a pervasive attempt at sexual discrimination in these companies,' Burk said.
 
Burk also wants the companies to document their policies in areas such as equal pay, distribution of stock options and selection of board members.
 
Burk concedes her latest effort is a step removed from the goal of having a female join Augusta National, although it could conceivably lead to one or more of the executives resigning from the Augusta, Ga., club. She said the initiative eventually will target Wall Street companies with no connection to the Masters.
 
'I'm not sure that it does lead to getting a female member at Augusta,' Burk said. 'But what it does do is lead to corporate America paying attention to what they're doing vis-a-vis sex discrimination.'
 
Burk led a high-profile nine-month campaign against Augusta National before last year's tournament, but the protest fizzled when a local ordinance forced her group to stage its demonstration a half-mile from the club's front gates. Masters chairman Hootie Johnson repeatedly vowed not to give in to Burk's protests.
 
Burk's appeal of the ordinance remains under review by a court in Atlanta, so she doesn't plan to demonstrate at this year's Masters, which starts Thursday.
 
Augusta National has never had a female member since it opened in 1933.
 
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