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Success of women managers and marketers linked to local golf courses

August 1, 2008

For more information, contact: Benjamin Haimowitz,

Ambitious women in management and marketing will do well to check out the golf courses in their vicinity, a new study suggests.
Drawing on a sample of more than 450 golf courses in the U.S., the research, presented at the annual meeting of the Academy of Management, reveals an uncanny link between the placement of tee boxes for men and women and the success of local women in sales, management, and marketing. The study created something of a stir at the meeting, with one member crediting it for an important discovery -- the "grass ceiling."
On average, women's tee boxes are about 50 yards closer to the hole than men's. The greater the distance between tee boxes, the study finds, the fewer women will there be in management and marketing in that geographic locale and the less money will those women make.
"If on average the women's tees are far away from the men's tees, this may portray a negative belief about the golfing abilities of women -- and perhaps by extension negative beliefs about other abilities," write the study's authors Michelle M. Arthur, Robert Del Campo, and Harry J. Van Buren III of the University of New Mexico. Even though "overt barriers to women's advancement," have receded, the professors conclude, "we are left with more subtle barriers like different golf tee placements."
The study is based on data from 455 U.S. golf courses and locales across 50 states, each course being matched to a specific census locale. A Web site that randomly produces names and information about golf courses provided the distances between the men's and women's starting tees for each hole, permitting the researchers to calculate the average such distance for each course. Obtaining workforce and earnings data in the relevant locales from publicly available sources, they focused particularly on three occupations in which networking is a crucial activity -- general management; sales and related occupations; and marketing and sales management.
The University of New Mexico professors, golfers all, found greater distances between tee boxes to be significantly associated with lower participation of women in marketing and sales management and marginally associated with lower participation of women in general management. Greater distances were linked as well to lower female participation in sales, although the results here were not statistically significant.
The professors also found greater distances between tee boxes to be strongly or significantly associated with lower female earnings in all three occupations. Greater distances were strongly associated, too, with lower earnings by women relative to men in marketing and sales management and were marginally associated with lower earnings relative to men in general management.
What accounts for these patterns? The authors offer two explanations.
The first has to do with golf's role as a networking activity par excellence."To the extent that the tees are situated far apart," the professors write, "it becomes more likely that [men and women] will golf in separate carts. If so, women are excluded from prime networking opportunities that take place during the idle time spent in the cart and waiting at the starting tee boxes to tee off."
The second has to do with the political and cultural beliefs implicated in placing tee boxes far apart -- what it says about regional values and mores. Greater distances, they write, "may portray a negative belief about the golfing abilities of women -- and perhaps by extension negative beliefs about other abilities. Significant differences in tee placements between men and women may reinforce biases against women, not just in physical terms but also intellectual terms."
In a related study, in fact, the authors find significant correlations between tee distances and local and regional politics. For example, in states that voted for Bush in 2004 starting tees are placed farther apart than they are in states that voted for Kerry, with the likelihood this difference is due to chance being less than one in a hundred.
The study, entitled "The Impact of Gender-Differentiated Golf Course Structures on Women's Networking Abilities," was among several thousand research reports at the Academy of Management meeting, held in Anaheim, California from August 10th to 13th.  Founded in 1936, the Academy is the largest organization in the world devoted to management research and teaching. It has more than 18,000 members in 92 countries, including more than 10,000 in the United States. This year's annual meeting drew more than 9,000 scholars and practitioners for sessions on a host of subjects relating to business strategy, corporate organization and investment, the workplace, technology development, and other management-related topics.
Media Coverage:
SHRM Online. Research: Low Expectations Limit Women's Results. (Friday, September 05, 2008).

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