Not the ladies’ tees : how gendered practices and language in the golf industry in Ontario impact women’s engagement
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In sporting industries, including the golf industry, there is a long-standing history of gendered practices events, exclusion, and “typical ‘ expectations” (Breger et al. 2019 p. 274 These practice are evident in golf through gendered language, gendered dress code, gendered history, gendered leagues, and gendered tee blocks. Specific gendered practices within the golf industry, such as gendered language,contribute to participants’ experiences in important ways. Through gendered language such as “cart girl,”and “lady golfer,” the golf industry is perpetuating gendered ideals, and through a gendered dress code and gender marked tee blocks, the industry is propagating ideas about women’s ability levels in the sport. Women’s professional golf is a topic of increasing academic concentration (Bowes Kitching,2020a), but there is a gap in research regarding how gendered language and practices impact women in the industry. Golf is historically referred to as a “gentleman’s game” (Billings et al., 2018 p. 97) and has been historically exclusionary to women (Bowes et al., 2020a). Golf participation rates are also lower for women than for men, ( Snelgrove, Wood, 2015 and women often leave the sport due to the experiences they have through their involvement. Augusta National Golf Club, one of golf’s most distinguished golf clubs(Swart et al. 2003 where the Master’s Tournament takes place, did not allow female members to join as members until 2012. When they finally allowed their first two female members, it was a great win for women’s golf (Andrews 2012 p. 2) and allowing for more equitable participation in the industry. In addition, there is a history of policies that discriminate against women in golf, and often the experiences women have as a result of these exclusionary policies impacts their participation and comfort in participating. Often, the policies can also limit their involvement in the sport or impact retention and lead to more women leaving the sport. Largely, little research exists on women’s experience as participants in the sport (Mitchell et al., 2016). In recent years, diversity and women’s golf initiatives have been prominent in Ontario and the rest of Canada. In 2020, the PGA of Canada created a Diversity Inclusion Task Force with industry professionals to allow underrepresented populations the chance to participate in golf (PGA of Ontario, 2020). Golf Canada and the PGA of Canada launched a Women in Coaching program (Golf Canada, 2020), and Golf Canada and Golf Ontario have recently launched a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Strategic Alliance with Korn Ferry (Golf Ontario, 2020). These initiatives bring together diverse and underrepresented voices to contribute to diversity and inclusion in the golf industry and are significant in allowing various populations to experience the sport. However, more research is needed in the area of women in golf to accurately understand women’s experiences. Research concerning women in golf is fundamental as Canadian women continue to gain employment in the golf industry and increasingly play the sport. Women also have increasingly busy work and home lives, and “fewer are maintaining lifelong roles as engaged sport participants” (O’Reilly et al., 2018 p.16). The trouble goes beyond the sphere of sports participation. Oftentimes, golf is in fact used to host informal business meetings, and when women miss out on participating in these types of opportunities, it can impact their career advancement. It is also well known that golf provides opportunity to men to socialize and strengthen networking, but it does not always have the same social benefit for women (Agarwal et al. 2016This research aims to fill the gap in the literature surrounding women’s experience in the golf industry,including gendered roles and the assumptions women face. This thesis in particular, aims to gain insight into the gendered practices in golf from an insider’s perspective and raise awareness of how gendered practices affect women in the golf industry. Interviews with 10 female golfers who work in the industry were conducted with the aim of understanding how gendered practices in golf have impacted women in Ontario.This research contributes to the areas of sport sociology, gender studies, and communications studies with regard to sports and gender.
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