Yoshimi Douglas-Street gives insight into how working in the construction industry helped her when she took up golf two years ago

Editor Emma Ballard speaks to Yoshimi Douglas-Street who took up golf two years ago. We cover a lot of ground in this extensive interview looking at the parallels between her career in the construction industry and golf, how she got into the game and her progress to date and how she wants to encourage other women to not give up on those networking opportunities that golf presents in the business world.

Tell me a bit more about working in the construction industry.

I've worked within the construction industry for 20 years now, for three tier one main contractors, so the big boys and girls in central London, on a number of high profile projects. When I first entered into the industry, I was the only female on site in terms of management, it was daunting especially at 20 years old.

I think if you're a certain character, it can very quickly turn you off. You come across different characters, some are old school, some forward-thinking, championing and supporting women coming into the industry. Although there's still a level of you having to prove yourself and show you are just as worthy to be there as a man.

This has been consistent throughout my career, however it has vastly improved in the last five to eight years. Where the ratio of women to men in the industry is largely improving, however, we're still not there yet. But when you get to senior management level, the gap is huge, we’re talking single figures of women, if any at all.

Personally, I'm championing it within my industry, part of various steering committees internally and externally and I help female graduates when they come into the industry.

You started playing golf two years ago, what parallels have you seen between golf and the construction industry?

Yosh Douglas-Street 1

Although worlds apart in terms of two industries, golf and construction, they're very much parallel in terms of women being in the minority. If I hadn't come from working in construction where it was similar, I may not have continued golf.

I have met other women who are intimidated by men within the golf club and on the course, and they won't go out and play if the guys are there in front of them or behind them, because they'll be apprehensive, or think they'll be slowing the game down, they can't make mistakes, and then make a fool of themselves.

Then you unfortunately have some clubs where there is still the old school culture – should females be there? I'm not saying it's all clubs, a lot of clubs are very diverse and inclusive now. There's a lot of females coming through and wanting to play and enjoying playing and that stems from juniors going up. But there's still a long way to go.

Once I got involved, it really resonated with me in terms of how very similar the worlds are, and they're going in the right direction, don't get me wrong. It's just how we help progress, push it forward in terms of encouraging more females to not only start the sport, but continue it and maintain it and feel comfortable, and you should be there and you're just as good as men.

Similar to how you have had to prove yourself as a woman working in the construction industry, I believe there is a parallel with golf – whether that be to men or other women at the golf club. I don't feel that there's any other recreational sport that you need to prove your worth before you are accepted by everyone at the club.

I totally agree. Again, that comes with the culture and behaviours surrounding people. But there is an element of a natural assumption that just because you're a female, you're not going to be that great. Then you get asked what your handicap and people realise you are actually good.

We hear a lot that women will turn down golf day opportunities in the workplace. I don't know whether you think this is true, but one of my conclusions is the fact that women want to get to a certain standard of golf before they are willing to go whereas men do not feel that pressure and will play regardless of their ability. But women almost want to be perfect, and I'm not saying that every woman is like that, and there will be women that don't worry it. However, I wonder if you think that is something that is holding women back within the corporate golf space?

I think you hit the nail on the head there. I could definitely apply that to myself. I have had the opportunity to go on several golf days over the years, but I was very apprehensive. And that's just me, like you said, it might not be all women, but I wanted to be not better than the men, but at least be able to play with confidence, knowing that I could play a round with them on the golf day.

I think that's very similar to something I saw in an article a few months ago, where it compared women to men in terms of applying for job roles. It said, women will only apply for a job role where they tick all the boxes in terms of what you require to achieve and be competent at a job. Whereas men, they will look at the competencies and if they're 50%, they'll go right, I can do that.

I’ve come to realise, by speaking to some of the guys at work, that they’re not necessarily that good at golf but they enjoy the networking and social side.

Yosh Douglas-Street

Your son started playing golf a few years before you. What made you choose golf?

When I was younger, I was heavily into sport at a high level. I used to play basketball for England, county and district netball. So sport was a massive part of my life growing up. I found all the skills that I learned within it, e.g. team player, social skills, being confident in different surroundings, interaction, etc. You could utilise that within a working environment. In my job, I lead a team. And you're essentially you're part of a team working together to achieve that end goal. It's very similar to sport.

I was keen for my son and daughter to get into sport and thankfully they both enjoy it. Golf is one of the sports my son takes part in. It’s given him a good social circle outside of the school environment, he's got golf friends, football friends and swimming friends.

I can see they're confident within themselves. I'm not saying they're loud and shouty but they're confident within their own space but also in different environments. I think that's a massive skill to take with you, when you grow up and then go to uni, or wherever it may be.

That's kind of the initial thing and then I wanted to be able to do something together as well, you know, when, in the summer we were going out in the evening and playing nine holes, it was lovely. Both of these things – I wanted him to get into golf and that’s what then attracted me into it as well.

I’ve seen your Instagram account @ladies_can_golf. What made you want to start an Instagram account to document your golf experiences?

I met Ana and Nat who are part of it when I started learning how to play golf. We started our journey in a gateway to golf programme at Finchley Golf Club, coached by Head Pro Craig Normansell (my son's coach for the last six years) where you start as a beginners group, a small group of four where you get weekly coaching for 12 weeks. Then it progresses into intermediate and advanced.

Through golf, the three of us just got on. We're all very different characters, but we've got that natural, obvious love for golf. We just became really good friends and now we're golfing buddies, we go out and play and we're looking at going away on a golfing break.

We were looking through Instagram for a bit of encouragement or to find out what other ladies are out there and pro female golfers and there was not really a lot out there. We are very much championing females in golf and that ladies can play golf – hence the name!  And we wanted to share our journey along the way. It's been a fun journey and look forward to it continuing.

Ladies Can Golf

We have so much fun on the golf course and we don't take it seriously. We just play for leisure and fun. We thought we'd share it with everyone that we could on Instagram, hence we set up ladies can golf. And we just share our journey on there and you know, different trips we go on or tutorials or you know, golf days that we've set up and various different clubs that we try. We like to try different surrounding clubs, golf courses and experience in me just sharing it really with other females that you know, want to get into the sport don't know how to and show that it can be fun as well.

We also show our personal journeys of improving our fitness and technique for the sport to work on lowering our handicaps! I have a fantastic personal trainer Phillipa Brown @pb_fitness and golf pro coach Rob Watson @rwatson who have both helped to improve my game massively! A big thank you to both of them :-).

How did the three of you get your handicaps?

We did the beginner and intermediate classes and then went into the academy, where we worked on our handicap. Mine is 22, Ana is 37 and Nat is also 22, we’re quite similar in how we play.

How has your opinion of golf changed since you and your son started playing?

If I'm completely honest, before I played, I thought it was the most boring sport in the whole world. And I think that's probably because I'm from a team sport, rather than an individual. But even to watch it on TV, I found it quite boring. Now I play it, I would definitely say it's one of the hardest sports. There are so many technical aspects to it.

The mental aspect, you know, different courses, clubs. So many things I wasn't aware of before. Now I play it, I understand it, and I'm even watching it on TV. Last year we went to the AIG Women’s Open and the Rose Ladies Open at Brocket Hall.

It's definitely changed my mind in terms of the sport. In terms of mental health, it's been a massive help. To me in terms of mental health, it's the only sport that I find, makes me switch off. I've always liked the gym and spin, but in those situations, I'm always thinking of something else. Whereas I think when you're on the golf course, you're forced to only think about the ball and hitting that ball and where you're going with it. It's my kind of meditation.

What would you say to other women in a corporate setting who are thinking about either attending a golf day or taking up golf?

I'd say just go for it, enjoy it and have a laugh. Don't take it too seriously and put pressure on yourself. Network, enjoy the day and if you manage to hit a few golf balls, it's a bonus. But don't be afraid to say yes. I wish I had and going forward. You don't you don't have to be a pro at the end of the day.

I’ve met many men and women who have been playing for years and their aim isn’t to shoot a low score at a business networking event, they just enjoy the socialising, networking opportunities and being out on the course.

Follow Yosh, Nat and Ana on Instagram @ladies_can_golf