The year was 2012 and the place, Augusta National Golf Club.
At the Masters Tournament, the CEOs of all major corporate sponsors were traditionally given club membership and the members’ green jacket. However, the CEO of one of the three major sponsors did not have a green jacket. The reason? Since it was founded close to 80 years ago, the club had refused to accept women. And, Virginia Rometty was the new CEO of IBM.
But then, during the same year, saying it was a “joyous occasion,” Augusta National announced it had two new members: Condoleezza Rice (the former Secretary of State) and Darla Moore (a business woman).
Most golfers are still men. And that is the problem.
The Golf Gender Gap
In a new paper, researchers tell us the importance of golf. As a source of relationships, advice, and contacts beyond our immediate circles, golf is where we network. More than a game, it can provide a path to the C-suite.
Slightly exceeding two thirds, a majority of Fortune 1000 CEOs said they did business with a golf “partner.” Correspondingly, 400 out of 500 Fortune 500 executives said that golf gave their careers a boost. Similarly, female executives report that, as golfers, they closed the same number of deals as their male counterparts.
While the National Golf Foundation (NGF) reported in 2019 that 74 percent of all golfers were men, they also said that golf beginners were more diversified. At that time, 35 percent of all beginners were female and 26 percent, non-Caucasiann. Still though, some private clubs continue their gender discrimination.
Our Bottom Line: Human Capital
As economists we can look at golf through a human capital lens. One of the three factors of production (land, labor, capital) that make up all goods and services, capital can be divided into physical capital and human capital.
Physical capital refers to the tools, equipment and buildings that are people-made. The word investment is typically used with physical capital to indicate we have added to the existing stock. As new computers or a new plant, our extra capital could have boosted productivity.
Similarly, we can add to our stock of human capital. Then though, we increase productivity and the GDP with more knowledge and skills.
And that returns us to golf. Rather like a company increases its physical capital with a new building, we can invest in our human capital by learning golf. As a result, women can network, join the C-suite, and contribute to the talent from which firms benefit.
Or, I might add, as the number of female CEOs multiply, perhaps golf’s human capital will no longer be necessary.
My sources and more: Today’s post began with a Wall Street Journal article. Then, adding facts, this paper looked at golf and business women while Sports Illustrated confirmed the discrimination as did this article on the 2012 Masters. And finally, saying it has not ended. do take a look at this NY Post 2022 article.