I was having a conversation with one of my local Twitter friends on the subject of groups that specifically exclude others. In this case it’s a local women’s business support group that excludes men for the most part, but will every once in a while vote to allow a male in.

feeling excluded

His belief was that type of exclusionary group isn’t fair because what if the group was all men and the group stated that in public. He cited many debates and arguments from minorities and women on the same subject as it pertained to white men and all the complaints that came up. Wasn’t this the same thing?

I’m of a mixed mind on subjects like these. I’m not sure that apples always equal apples; if that was the case then why are there so many different names, sizes and colors for them?

There are a lot of professional groups that are exclusionary for one reason or another. I used to be the president of a local medical organization that excluded anyone who wasn’t in health care finance. I don’t know why someone who makes widgets would want to join that group, but if they did and we denied them entry, would the ethics of why our group existed be challenged? Would that person’s exclusion be fair?

Now I’m on the board of a local consultant’s group. Our rules are that to be a member you have to earn at least 51% of your income from consulting. It’s dicey at best because we accept consultant’s who work for consulting companies, which means they earn their income from their employer and not via their own efforts. Yet we wouldn’t accept someone who started a pizza business. If that person wanted to join our group because we address a lot of issues that most small businesses have to deal with, and we turned this person away, is that necessarily fair? It’s the proverbial “what if” moment that, luckily, we’ve never had to deal with.

The Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, GA used to be an all men’s gold club. Back in 2003 Martha Burk put in an application to join the club and was denied. She then held a protest trying to get advertisers to drop their plans for commercials during the event and the club decided to not have any commercials whatsoever for two years. She backed off, and by 2005 things were back to normal. Was that ethical? Was it fair? Did they get to have it both ways when they finally decided to open the doors to women in 2012?

I believe that if there’s an organization or a policy exclusionary to the point that it impacts the job or career of someone and it can be proven, then it needs to be challenged. Sports teams used to ban women reporters from access to athletes after games because they said the athletes were in a state of undress, but men could go in. That was challenged and won because it impeded a woman reporters right to do her job to the best of her ability and put her on an unequal standing with men.


We’ll start our own club

When it comes to social and private clubs the damage is once again mixed. Using Augusta as an example, a woman could say that not being allowed to be a club member impedes her ability to network with men on a professional level because many of the men play golf and hang out in the clubhouse. However, Augusta allowed women to play golf and go to the clubhouse as long as they were accompanied by men; they just couldn’t be members.

Maybe I don’t care because I’m kind of introverted. There’s few groups I’d even consider joining that don’t have anything to do with my interests. I’ve dropped many groups over the years because, even though I had an interest, I felt they didn’t have any interest in me or what I had to say. I can use my money for other things.

Back in the early 2000’s I belonged to a group called Professionals of Color, whose intention was to see what it could do to help black children progress in the community and get them interested in academics instead of gangs. Every member in the group was black for a while until we had one Latino member join the group. It was never an exclusionary group to white people; none of them ever wanted to be a part of it; that happens sometimes.

There are a lot of groups that wouldn’t want someone like me as a member, whether they stated it openly or not. This sort of thing still happens at college campuses across the country; they’re called fraternities and sororities. Though some walls have been broken down, there are folks who’ve decided they’d rather go with organizations that they’re more comfortable with. There are a good number of fraternities and clubs geared towards race, religion and gender preference. Think about the U.S. Congress for a moment; even there we have a Black Caucus!

That’s usually how it happens; excluded people create their own group. It’s when they get big and start doing good things that those who’d have never thought about joining before suddenly feel discriminated against, like the guy I was talking about at the beginning of this article.

Am I troubled by any of it? Not in the least. Whatever makes someone comfortable and allows them to grow or participate is on them. I never want to be anywhere I’m not wanted unless it impedes my right to make a living. If you don’t want me I’ll move on; someone will accept me… I hope. As long as you’re not impeding my right to make a living, I’m good.
 

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