An estimated 90% of Fortune 500 CEO’s play golf. Headlines were made last week when it was announced that the Augusta National, home of The Masters championship, was to admit two women for the first time in it's 80 year history. It should be noted that their first black member only joined in 1990, so it's not exactly on the bleeding edge of modern day concepts.
Nevertheless, most people have accepted this as a great step towards equality, and it has led to further calls for other male-only clubs to open their doors. However, there's yet to be much commentary around the actual issue of women playing golf.
There has been a lot of discussion in the UK over the past few months about quotas and increasing the number of women at senior levels. Numerous firms have implemented strategies to get high potential women the attention and support they need to reach Board level promotion. Yet, while coaching and mentoring and unique project opportunities can go so far, what about golf?
Career experts have been saying for years that women must play golf to reach the highest echelons of business. Golf has long known to be key to the professional advancement of men, presenting unique networking opportunities, providing a forum for business deals and even in the non-profit sector, being leveraged for fundraising. I once worked at a company with a Women's Network that innovatively organised a golf weekend away once a year. The weekend was open to all female employees at all levels, to provide a comfortable way to either learn how to play golf from scratch or improve your skills, while networking across the firm.
Should women play golf? Part of the desperate push to make women play golf is to break the mindset that hard work yields results. In the big, bad, corporate world we all know the truth: it is about who you know. And if that's the case, then surely we should leverage the best relationship building tool in existence, i.e. golf!
But then there are the practicalities to consider. What if you don't have time for it? Sure, 4 hours of networking can be great, but if you have children at home, food to cook, a house to clean and shopping to do then maybe there just aren't enough hours in a day. Is golf really practical for the real woman? As much as I hate to say it, Condoleezza Rice is a single, childless woman who undoubtedly has help for all of those tasks. I'm sure she'll have plenty of time to enjoy making friends at Augusta.
Finally, what about the game itself? If you google women and golf, you will get pages and pages of information basically saying the above. Almost no one talks about the logistics or pleasure of golf. What if you simply don't enjoy it? A consistent piece of advice that I espouse is to be authentic. Authenticity will garner you promotions, networks and everlasting success, according to the experts. Playing golf because all the men do, is that really an authentic activity? I'm a little tired of hearing that all women must do this or that to get ahead. Maybe we should all start doing what we actually want. Maybe we should look to change the business environment, instead of ourselves.
Personally, I'm not sold on golf. But given she loves the sport, I think it's great that Condi gets to play.
Lily Dey is an Author and Coach on a mission to empower women to achieve their personal and professional goals. A Google Global Community Scholar and StartingBloc Fellow, she believes in stripping out the psychobabble and providing women with sensible solutions to move their lives ahead in a fulfilling direction. Read her blog at skirtsandladders.com and follow her on Twitter.
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