I assumed that business professionals are so busy doing their jobs and maybe also raising families that they just don't have the time to play golf. I assumed golf had lost its importance in business.
I was wrong!
I just read an article in the Harvard Business Review that caught me off guard. I know it's been hard for women to break into the boardrooms of U.S. public companies. The statistics are disgusting: only 16.6 percent of Fortune 500 board seats were held by women in 2012.
But, I never really thought about what it's like for the women who do land a seat. Apparently, for those women, an inability to play golf is a giant handicap.
The HBR article said the women directors report that they are told by the men: "If you don't want to be excluded from some of the things we do, you're going to need to learn how to golf and start golfing with us." Other women reported that the male colleagues made a lot of important decisions together on the golf course-- preempting the opportunity to discuss them at formal meetings.
I thought this comment in the article by a female director was insightful: "Golf was amazingly helpful to my career. I would be the only woman on a men's golf trip. It built great camaraderie and relationships -- and respect. It put me on the same playing field as everyone else."
So what's the reality here? Do women need to play golf to get ahead? Is it a skill that remains important for all up and comers?
Before kids, my husband and I would hit golf balls and I even took a golf clinic. The sport didn't come easy to me but if I spent a lot of time at it, I think I could become good enough to hold my own out there.
Still, mastering golf takes lessons and practice -- and lots and lots of time. Between weekends at kids soccer games and dance performances, who has time to master a hole in one? The way I see it, for a woman to get out there and play with men, they need to play well, extremely well. Good golfers get competitive on a golf course. They don't want any player on their team holding them back. They have slightly more patience if that awful golfer is a man.
Personally, I don't have the desire to devote tons of my free time to golf. But I think I can survive in my profession, even excel in it, without playing golf. The question is, can you? My guess is that golf we be less as critical to business success in the next decade when today's moms and dads are in higher level positions. What are your thoughts? Would playing golf well give you an advantage in your career?