CULT OF POWER by Martha Burk


Sex Discrimination in Corporate America and What Can Be Done About It
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Enter the corridors of power and learn why so few women are there.

The Augusta National Golf Club is that elite, secretive corridor of power that hosts the Masters Gold Tournament—and doesn’t admit women. In 2002, Burk, the chair of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, decided to take action by writing to Augusta to urge them to open their doors to women. Her letter sparked a firestorm, and the firestorm led to this book. The Augusta National Golf Club is our point of entry, but Burk’s real subject isn’t golf but the subtle, and not-so-subtle, ways corporate America discriminates against women. The author is no ideologue. Rather, she evenhandedly addresses all the important questions: What is the difference between public space and private space? Is it legal for a club like Augusta to refuse women members? What’s the difference between an all-male club and, say, an all-white club? Are feminists trying to tell their hubbies that they can’t get together with the guys on occasion? (And Burk is emphatically not trying to forbid anyone’s hubbie from going out for a beer with male friends.) Beyond addressing the pay gap, Burk makes concrete suggestions—on-the-job day-care, for example—that could help level the field. Syndicated columnist Burk’s account is distinguished as much by its form as by its content, for she has managed one of the hardest challenges of nonfiction writing: creating a distinctive tone without having the author’s voice intrude too much on the pages. She strikes a perfect balance between the personal and impersonal, seeming variously tough, feisty, and self-critical, yet conveying all these qualities through the most occasional asides. One quibble concerns the production: the odd quotations in light-gray boxes scattered throughout the text are distracting (e.g., “An entirely different way of opening a can of whoop-ass,” from a Fortune magazine golf-driver ad) and make the whole feel, alternately, like an eighth-grade textbook and a chatty women’s mag.

Still, simply, an important book.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2005
ISBN: 0-7432-6450-9
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2005