Why more women should play golf

If there is one piece of advice I could give today's emerging business woman, it would be to add golf as a skill set in her networking routine. The advantages are just too palpable — both for her and her employer.

Women still only represent about 20 percent of the U.S. golfing population — a number that has remained largely unchanged for decades. Getting more women to play and enjoy golf is critically important but equally if not more important for women and their companies is getting more women to play business golf. Why?

Annika Sorenstam of Sweden tees off during the second round of the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open Championship in Edina, Minn.
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Annika Sorenstam of Sweden tees off during the second round of the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open Championship in Edina, Minn.

Golf has been deemed the sport of business. Few, if any, activities can duplicate the power of golf to boost one's career regardless of gender. The game provides unmatchable networking time with clients, prospects and colleagues, including coveted access to senior management. Also, if few women employees are playing golf, then their companies likely are missing out on key business opportunities.

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In a recent survey that included Executive Women Golf Association members, 79 percent of respondents agree that they can get to know a person better on the course, 73 percent say that golf has helped them develop new relationships and 62 percent credit golf with helping them try new things.

Conversely, one study from research firm Catalyst found that 46 percent of women surveyed noted exclusion from informal networks as the biggest impediment to reaching their career goals. Golf was cited as one of those networks.

It's no coincidence KPMG has selected golf — and not basketball or swimming, for example — as the backdrop to advance women's leadership on a global scale with this week's inaugural KPMG Women's PGA Championship — an LPGA Tour major.

Sure, many women and men succeed in business without ever setting foot on a golf course. Yet sadly, too few women, from millennials to seasoned executives, are saying yes to business golf. Even working women with low handicaps too often decline to tee-it-up. Worse yet, I continue to hear about women executives not getting invitations to play despite being known throughout their companies as good golfers.

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Having a larger population of women golfers in general will help this over time. It remains important to provide women with greater access to the game and more confidence to leave the office for a few hours with colleagues and clients to gain the unique business advantages only golf offers.

We firmly believe few things can help break glass ceilings quite like golf.

Commentary by Pam Swensen, the CEO of the Executive Women's Golf Association. Follow her on Twitter @pamewga.

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