Mickelson, Lewis in campaign to highlight women executives

Stacy Lewis hit one of the most significant drives of her career, and it really didn't matter where it landed.

It's what it shattered.

Lewis and Phil Mickelson, who have endorsement deals with the accounting firm KPMG, are taking part in a media campaign aimed at the advancement and empowerment of female executives. The campaign began Tuesday and will run through the KPMG Women's PGA Championship in June, which will feature a women's leadership conference with executives from business, sports, entertainment and politics.

''I like the fact Phil was willing to be involved. That's the coolest part,'' Lewis said.

In one of the commercials, Mickelson gives the honor to Lewis to hit first. Right after she connects on her tee shot, a glass ceiling in a corporate board room shatters. Visible through the blizzard of shards is a portrait of an all-male board of directors. The glass falls on the desk of a CEO, a medical lab and showers a bronze of Lady Justice.

The commercial ends with Mickelson picking up a piece of glass on the tee box as he looks at Lewis, who smiles and invites him to hit.

''I love what they're doing with getting involved with the LPGA,'' Mickelson said. ''I was not aware of how difficult it has been to work their way up in corporate America and the challenges they've had to overcome. I love the whole idea of the glass ceiling commercial and not having any limits in what they can do and achieve. It's a cool message.''

Mickelson liked the idea enough to lose a match.

In another commercial, Mickelson and Lewis play for ''the usual'' bet. Mickelson is famous for his Tuesday money games at the majors, only this match ends with him missing a putt and having to pay up: He has to caddie for Lewis the following week.

Mickelson and Lewis each won the British Open in 2013 - Mickelson at Muirfield for the third leg of the career Grand Slam, Lewis two weeks later with a birdie-birdie finish on the Old Course at St. Andrews. Mickelson is in the World Golf Hall of Fame. Lewis is a two-time LPGA player of the year.

Until recently, KPMG had not been as visible in golf beyond the personal endorsements. That changed last year when it became title sponsor of an LPGA major that will be organized by the PGA of America and become only the second women's major on network television (NBC). The KPMG Women's PGA Championship is June 11-14 at Westchester Country Club, for 41 years a popular stop on the men's tour.

It also created an opportunity for Lewis.

''Mine has become more of a women's leadership platform,'' Lewis said. ''It's something I've always been close to but never had the resources to know how to do it.''

The launch of the KPMG campaign follows a week of prominent developments related to gender bias.

Google last week hired Ruth Porat from Morgan Stanley to be its new CFO, making her Google's highest-ranking female executive when she starts at the end of May. Google Inc. and other Silicon Valley titans have been criticized for not hiring and promoting enough women.

And while Ellen Pao lost her lawsuit against a Silicon Valley venture capital firm over gender discrimination on Friday, observers believe it will draw even more attention to the challenges of women executives.

KPMG this month made the annual list of ''Top 50 Companies for Executive Women'' by the National Association of Female Executives for the fifth straight year.

John Veihmeyer, the global chairman of KPMG, said its golf sponsorship and women's leadership conference this summer at Westchester were natural extensions of its efforts to be more inclusive. Building a campaign around Lewis made sense. Mickelson's involvement deepened the impact.

The glass ceiling spot ends with the voiceover, ''Here's to breaking more glass ceilings. In golf and everywhere else.'' Veihmeyer felt the light-hearted commercial where Mickelson loses the bet has a message that was important in its own way.

''The subtle message is Phil supporting Stacy ... and men and women competing together,'' Veihmeyer said. ''The back and forth and all those subtle messages contribute to women being positioned in a way that they're on equal footing and have the potential to achieve. It's a very serious commercial about what we view as a serious topic.''

A week after the LPGA major is another event that is separate from the campaign, though still meaningful.

The KPMG Stacy Lewis Junior All-Star Invitational in Arkansas is for 32 girls and 32 boys in mixed pairings. There will be a winner from each gender, along with an overall team competition - boys vs. girls - based on the top eight scores of each gender.

Lewis said the goal was to create a ''gender-blind respect.''

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide—from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Andy Staples, Grant Wahl, and more—delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.