Women & Golf asked four women who work in the golf industry about their thoughts on this year's International Women's Day theme - Inspire Inclusion

The drive to get more women and girls into golf has been part of the golf industry’s agenda for over 20 years. More recently, that has included more women in the workplace too. As it’s International Women’s Day and this year’s theme is to #InspireInclusion, we wanted to get a gauge for where the industry sits at the moment.

The IWD website states:

“When we inspire others to understand and value women's inclusion, we forge a better world. And when women are inspired to be included, there's a sense of belonging, relevance, and empowerment.”

We asked four women who all work in the golf industry about their thoughts on inclusion:

Yvonne Brooke, Founder of the Ladies Golf Lounge and Community Outreach & Event Coordinator at Get Golfing, Nicole Wheatly, CEO of Medi8 Golf and Founder of the Women in Golf Awards, Aimi Bullock, EDGA’s Director of Women & Girls’ Golf and Emma Self, Senior Associate Producer at Sky Sports.

Does the golf industry inspire inclusion?

I was wondering whether you could give me your brief thoughts on whether you feel that the golf industry inspires inclusion (of women) and if not, what you think needs to happen...

Yvonne kicked off perfectly:

“Reflecting on the current state of golf's inclusivity for women, I find it to be a mixed picture. While there have been notable strides towards welcoming women into the sport in general, there remain significant barriers that hinder full inclusion.”

Nicole added: “I do believe that inclusion is the only way we can make golf as a sport and a career more appealing, but sometimes I think that appearances are much more important than impact when it comes to the golf industry.”

Golf industry is more open about issues

With Emma noting the difficulty with actioning the changes that need to be made: “As in many areas of inclusion, golf these days is more open about issues and wants to be more inclusive to women, but when it comes down to actually doing it, that seems to be a harder task.

“Even the semantics make it difficult. Most sports have moved to using ‘women’ rather than ‘ladies’, and that shift is being reflected at some golf clubs. But there is resistance to that, including from female players, and it is hard to justify when the elite female tours are both ‘Ladies’ tours. We are all in agreement LET is better than WET! (There’s always an EWT option of course…)”

Aimi pointed out one of the main issues that golf has when it comes to inspiring inclusion:

“Golf industry needs to work harder to shake off its banner of “male, pale and stale” which it’s been under for generations. There is some amazing work going on to encourage women to participate in golf but more could be done to encourage women to seek a career in golf”

Something that was echoed by Yvonne:

“Historically, golf has been perceived as a male-dominated sport, with lingering stereotypes and entrenched attitudes that can be challenging to overcome. Despite efforts to promote women's participation through many fantastic initiatives, there are still systemic issues, such as the lack of women in leadership positions within golf clubs.

“Until these structural barriers are addressed and more women and other ethnic minorities are empowered to assume leadership roles, the culture of golf may struggle to fully embrace inclusivity.”

Change takes (a lot) time

It’s clear that there is still a lot more that needs to be done in the women’s golf space when it comes to inclusion. But change takes (a lot) of time, as emphasised by Emma:

“It’s difficult in a very traditional sport to modernise in any area, as topics like the ‘hoodie debate’ demonstrated. It feels like golf, even though it really is one of the only sports that truly can be for everyone, is its own worst enemy sometimes, and in-fighting does nothing to change the overall projected image of the game.

“Like everything, if it is going to be genuinely inclusive and we are going to see real change it will take investment and attitude shifts beyond what has happened to this point. From Tour level down to Club level. Although the community and health benefits of the game at any age are fantastic, things like creche options at golf clubs and ensuring women can play at weekends as well as during the week as standard would be huge strides in making it easier for women to take up and keep playing the game at every stage of life, not just as a retirement option.

“Saying everyone is welcome is very different to removing obstacles and actively encouraging women to try, and hopefully love, the great game of golf, including its many frustrations!”

Time to stop box ticking

There’s no doubt that women and girls’ golf is on the agenda but Nicole agrees with Emma on the real issue around actually actioning change, rather than just saying you’re going to do something about it:

“Knowing the value in appearing to be more inclusive is not the same as understanding and appreciating the impact that genuine inclusion can generate.  As a result, although there are more women working in this industry and playing golf, many are still witnessing the types of behaviours that belong to a bygone age.  To be more inclusive we need to stop box ticking and look at the outcomes we want to achieve.”

For women to be truly inspired to be included, Aimi is keen to see an increase in visibility of women in the golf industry:

“At times feels like slow progress but the industry is waking up to benefit of diverse boards, the value women bring to leadership roles and decision making process. More could be done to show case this … ‘if you can’t see it you can’t be it’.”

It is worth noting that many golf clubs have moved in a positive direction and that has been noted by active and competitive players like Yvonne:

“I've always felt welcomed and valued by fellow golfers and club members. However, I attribute this positive experience to my deliberate choice of joining clubs that embody a modern, forward-thinking approach to golf. These clubs prioritise diversity, equality, and inclusion, creating an environment where all golfers, regardless of gender, feel respected and supported.

“While my personal experience may be positive, I acknowledge that not all women may share the same sentiment, and there are still areas within the golfing community where inclusivity can be improved.”

From grassroots to elite level

Is it any better at the elite end of the game? Emma gives her thoughts:

“Taking a positive view, women’s sport has come a long way in general, and golf is seeing some of the benefits. For example, recently editing a history piece for the 2023 Solheim Cup for Sky Sports it’s very clear to see how it’s grown every two years in every way as an event, illustrated on TV from 1st tee structures and walk-outs to the huge amount of fans at every hole, even those that were slightly difficult to access at Finca Cortesin in searing heat!

“There’s a big push in broadcasting women’s golf too, and it's very satisfying to cover all the women’s Majors as well as men’s on Sky Sports, and increasing amounts of women’s tour events, all aiming for a better balance in coverage.

“Although encouraging and important signs like increased purses show progress is still happening, and there are many organisations and individuals across every level of the game driving this forward, we have a long way to go at the elite level, never mind positive change filtering down to grassroots.”

It's interesting to see that thoughts on the where the golf industry currently stands when it comes to inspiring inclusion, were echoed in a an article by Women & Golf's Charlotte Ibbetson last week.

Does the golf industry do enough to inspire inclusion? In short, there is some great work being done, but as you can see, there's still plenty more work to do to truly inspire inclusion.