Women Create New Links To Global Business Success
Growth In Women’s Golf Is Favorably Matched By Growth In The Popularity Of Golf On An International Scale
These two trends hold enormous potential for success for businesswomen who golf, and for golfers who are businesswomen. These trends also hold tremendous challenges as well as opportunities for women willing to adopt the sport and make it part of their business life.
Women’s golf is not so new. Do you know the identity of the first royal woman known to have played golf? Mary, Queen of Scots is known to have played the game back in the 1400s and played well! After a fall out of favor and a few hundred years in remission golf for women came roaring back.
International business is also nothing new, but using golf as a strategy to engage in it successfully is a relatively new one. Evidence of golf’s increasing popularity globally comes from Golf Research Group: “While the golf business is flat in the US, the big opportunity is international – golf continues to grow around the world. There is golf in 119 countries, and overall there are now 30,730 golf courses worldwide and 56.8 million golfers.”
Do you do business internationally? Are you looking for unique ways strengthen your international business relationships? Do you value self-improvement? Could you accept the idea of a sport as the tool that will help you accomplish these goals?
Business people all over the world play golf.
They play to build sportsmanship, strengthen concentration, spend quality time with peers, relax and exercise. However, golf is the only sport that is used as a business tool by executives. Even cable TV’s highly successful Hardball (an American political talk show) host Chris Matthews says “It’s a combination of athletics and beauty that make this a great game.”
Significant evidence (just look on the web!) suggests that many women in today’s business world are discovering the value of “speaking the language of golf ” to gain competitive advantage over competitors and form relationships with clients and peers, and to help bridge the gender and professional gaps that persist in many environments. Julieta Stack, LPGA-certified golf pro and member of the DC chapter of Executive Women’s Golf Association estimates that 65% of her students are women (although she is teaching more men now than ever before); of that 65%, 30% are pursuing golf specifically for business purposes – about 70% still want to play in order to socialize or exercise. However, the trend in women’s business golf seems to be up. One woman told me that at a recent company conference she chose to go golfing with her male colleagues instead of shopping with her female ones. As a result she not only earned these colleagues’ respect on the course but she also learned the company’s strategic direction – information she would not otherwise have gained and that gave her a considerable competitive advantage over her female colleagues. A promotion followed shortly after this episode.
Although golf is now considered “the game of choice” for corporate outings, “of the 26.2 million golfers in the United States, about 5.8 million or just 22 percent are women, according to the National Golf Foundation.” This could mean that of the business that gets accomplished 78% of it is credited to men. However, the increase in women-owned businesses means an increase in the likelihood that CEOs and other top executives will be women - whose attendance at those corporate outings is considered mandatory. From that perspective, the importance of golf to the busy female executive becomes indisputably obvious. The question to ponder, according to Colin Hegarty of Golf Research Group, is whether men are excluding women from the golf course or whether, for whatever reason, women are excluding themselves.
Corporate outings are also attended by international executives in the US and abroad. According to several highly-placed American executives interviewed for this article, universally the rules and etiquette of golf remain the same. It’s off the course that the similarities end and differences begin, so with golf’s international growth come international business opportunities. There is always a “19th hole” no matter where you go. If most business gets done at the 19th hole – and it does - executives will need to develop cultural sensitivity or more precisely, cultural competence.
You are culturally competent if you can recognize and accommodate cultural orientations dissimilar to your own, such as attitudes about time (a fixed part of nature, or flexible and fluid); attitudes about power, status and rank among business associates (known as “power distance”); and cognitive and communication organization (linearly in discreet units, or holistically and contextual). When arranging a tee time in Mexico remember it is a country which tends toward “flexible time.” Remember to keep a respectful physical and deferential distance in a country that values hierarchy and protocol like China. Imagine your surprise in Sweden where less-defined gender roles might dictate that golf caddies are women…! Remember that when your Japanese hosts invite you to play golf it is precisely to assess your business character and not your technical skill. Remember that golf in Russia could include what we would refer to as a liberal attitude toward “bending the rules.”
It is clear that although the rules of play are universal, golf’s use as a business tool is highly culture-bound. Familiarity with specific orientations will ease any anxiety associated with playing internationally and enable you to calmly handle unexpected cultural encounters, thus building your own “cultural competence.” For these reasons, at On-Site Golf Programs we not only address the practical challenges of golfing with skill- and knowledge-building workshops, and time on the course with a golf pro. Our international workshops address issues of cultural (including gender culture) sensitivity and communication to help businesswomen develop their own cultural competence and create new links to global business success.
Virginia L. Cutchin
Director of Intercultural Programs
On-Site Golf Programs
(A Division of On-Site Productions, Inc.)
1600 Prince Street, #100
Alexandria, VA 22314