Karen Firestone, MBA
Some Women Still Feel Unwelcome At Business Golf Outings
By Torleif Sorenson on 1/9/14
H-T: Stuart Pfeifer

Karen Firestone is the epitome of business success. After graduating from Harvard with a B.A. in Economics and an MBA, she spent 22 years as a fund manager and research analyst at Fidelity Investments before co-founding Aureus Asset Management, for which she is President and CEO. Unfortunately, when she met some friends for golf one day last summer, some of her male business counterparts thought she had retired:
"As I got out of my car, a guy I know waved and said, 'Hey, great to see you, but don't you still work?' (Yes.) Over on the driving range, another man I've known for years, came by and said, 'So, you've finally decided to retire?' (No.)

"Since this was the first time in memory that I had left the office early (and it wasn't even that early) for a fun activity, I wasn't used to these questions. I realized, of course, that both men were professionals, as were most people on the golf course that weekday afternoon, and no one was asking them if they still were employed. So why did they ask me?"
Intelligent woman that she is, Firestone decided to survey some 40 business executives - slightly more women than men in her survey pool. She published the results in a column for Harvard Business Review:
"I found that 90% of the men, and around 40% of the women, participate in some weekday outings, generally 3-4 times per year. And while several mentioned being encouraged to take clients out for a round of golf, the breakdown between leisure outings and business outings was evenly divided, suggesting that business may be overstated as a rationale for golf excursions.

Those who did not play golf or other sports primarily cited work as the reason. Women in the study gave this answer much more frequently than men, perhaps suggesting that they feel less comfortable being away from work than their male peers, who have generations of experience with such pastimes. Several women also said that they were never asked to join the weekday excursions. Janine, the CEO of a financial services firm wrote, 'I don't play golf, but I fly fish competently and my male colleagues have never invited me to join them."

Like any problem-solver, Firestone offered some realistic solutions to both women and men to mitigate this problem:
To the women of the office, I say let your colleagues and business associates know that you would like the opportunity to join them on an outing. If they don't know you play, they won't ever ask you. Or arrange an outing yourself.

To the men: try inviting some women along. As one male executive at a real estate firm said, "If my partner were a decent golfer, I would welcome her anytime, but she hates golf." I told him I play — let's see if he asks.
One plausible scenario is that while an increasing number of women in business play golf, some women may not feel their game is good enough to put on display. Among the avenues for fixing that problem is the LPGA's Teaching and Club Professional network. And among the PGA of America's female teaching professionals is our own oobgolf columnist, Erika Larkin.

Another excellent idea is the Executive Women's Golf Association. This 501(C)(6) non-profit organization has over 120 chapters and groups across the United States, Canada, and in the U.K. and Italy. The EWGA offers organized activities, teaching and learning seminars, and plenty of social and business networking opportunities, as well. Also, do not let the word "executive" fool you; the EWGA counts health care professionals, engineers, attorneys, and women across the private and public sectors as members.

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Image via Aureus Asset Management

[ comments ]
legitimatebeef says:
One of the few things I hate about golf is its deep association with "executives" and "business" people.
Duke of Hazards says:
I'm no expert, but I'm guessing that the 'business' benefit of golfing is more relationship building with colleagues and business partners, i.e. - spending time together and becoming acquainted through small talk about family and other pursuits ('shooting the shit', basically), rather than actual constructive and meaningful technical discussions and negotiations.

When you factor in that it's a 4 hour outing and guys inherently have more in common to talk about and can alternatively shut up and be silent around each other (not trying to be misogynistic) for stretches, I figure I'd be more comfortable with guys than women. I'd give it a shot, though.
jpjeffery says:
I'm not much of a talker, in fact I'm actually quite shy, but I find I'm generally more comfortable in the company of women than I am men. In fact, maybe that's BECAUSE I'm a little shy. Either way, I'd happily play golf with women.

And I agree with Beef about that association. When I told an old (now ex-) friend of mine that I had taken up golf he called me a "corporate banker".

Except he didn't use the word "banker". He used a word that rhymes with banker.
Wes11point5 says:
I got an equally akward reception when I walked into "Curves".
Matt F says:
@jp - you can say wanker mate. :)
joe jones says:
I have used Golf as a business tool for years. To be effective very little business should be discussed on the course. If you have lunch or dinner after ideas about business can be discussed. Though my wife has little interest in Golf she was very involved with my business. We always tried to involve the spouses as much as possible. When I had a country club membership my wife would host the guest wife and kids at the pool while we played. The families often became friends. My kids would baby sit their kids at times. As far as women networking on the golf course it rarely happened years ago but things have changed in the last few years. (Not fast enough as far as I'm concerned). Some of the best times I have had involved mixed couples and Scotch twosomes. Alternating shot formats can be hilarious.
falcon50driver says:
Women have smaller feet than men for a reason, so they can stand closer to the stove and the sink.
joe jones says:
falcon. Are you suggesting they don't belong on the golf course? Why don't you add barefoot and pregnant.
falcon50driver says:
It's a joke Joe, One of the most fun evenings I've had was with two women at a blackjack table trading barbs about the opposite sex. Believe me they can dish it out with a lot more venom than you can imagine. We all laughed until we could hardly breathe.
joe jones says:
I thought so. It was not typical of your comments.
highheelgolfer says:
I love Karen Firestones enthusiasm for trying to help women get invited to the game, but it is a little too passive for my taste. And I truly do believe that the majority of men don't mind having women in their foursomes and definitely don't mind having women at golf scrambles. I wrote a follow up story to Karen's on www.highheelgolfer.com - come check it out if you want to know "Why Women Shouldn't Feel Uncomfortable on the Golf Course!" - here is the link highheelgolfer.com/women-shouldnt-feel-uncomfort
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