I attended the NGCOA Canada Conference in late November and one of the first sessions I sat in on was the 'Women in Golf Summit' with guest speaker Elisa Gaudet (Women's Golf Day Founder). There were some productive conversations happening and it was great to see many men in the audience, this Summit used to be for women only. One specific topic that came up was the quantity of women working within the industry. From what I recall, many had said they think this number needs to increase.
Golf, and clubs, have long been dominated by men but I believe we have seen some progress in the last decade or so. According to the National Golf Foundation in this article, the percentage of women on the course rose to 25% in 2021, up from 19% a decade ago. Here is some additional info from a survey of ours in US private clubs during November 2021...
But what about women within club; on boards, in management and working the front lines?
In Canada, we have it that roughly 8% of private club GM/COO jobs are occupied by women, with that number dropping to a woeful 3% in Canadian private golf clubs, 3%!!!!
I'd like to find out in time if it's any different in the US and UK, but my suspicions are that it isn't too dissimilar.
I'm sure everyone is aware of the 5 why's. After seeing the frustratingly low number of clubs led by women, I put this method into play and started to dig. I think everyone has their own hypotheses on the matter, but my first instinct was to find out how many women vs men are on track to becoming a Club Executive. The first place to look is at the next in line or second in commands, right?
Data from December 2021 (Canadian Clubs only), the quantity of GM/COO's direct reports and the ratio of them being made up of men vs women...
From December 2021, US clubs are rather similar...
To me, these are progressive numbers. A sign of balancing. I do not know what this ratio would have been in years prior but we're relatively close to an equilibrium here. It would also suggest a healthy pipeline towards more women sitting in lead roles. But these percentages however, as we learned above, don't resemble themselves at the GM/COO level. Why the heck not?
Perhaps there is a gender bias against women from today's board of directors or hiring committees? This is really difficult to determine and an accusation we're certainly not willing to make. Here is some potentially helpful info about board composition, from October 2021 (Canadian and US clubs)...
*14% of US clubs reported having 0 women on their board, while 6% reported having the same, or more, women on their board than men.
The good news here is that the percentage of women members in clubs, stated a couple paragraphs above, isn't that far off from this ratio in board composition. I think that's an important ratio to keep our eye on down the road.
Back to the topic at hand, I don't believe it's fair to point the finger at the BOD's with the limited data we have. There are still too many unknowns. The biggest blank yet filled is, what is the ratio of men vs women actually applying for GM/COO roles? I'm sure the search firms out there have an accurate answer they could supply, and I think that's an important piece to this puzzle in determining why there aren't more women in the GM seat today.
I think we're all hopeful to see a change in gender ratio amongst GM's in our industry, though that doesn't mean a lot. We'd love to hear from you, our members, especially leading women, so please share your thoughts below.
If I've learned anything from this research it's that although causation is really difficult to determine, leaning towards ratios and probabilities gets us closer to the truth, while helping us avoid irrational assumptions and jumping to any conclusions.