There was an article in The Gazette this week in which writer Stephanie Whittaker discusses the reasons why professional women should take up golf. The jist of it was that golfing is a great opportunity for networking (aka schmoozing), because golf courses are flush with business and professional people who gather there to meet, greet, play, and talk informally. Most of these people are men, and Whittaker makes the argument that women who don’t golf are missing out on the action and the opportunities.
Andi over at the Nightingaleshiraz Blog weighs in. She acknowledges the value of networking but she feels one should partake of networking events not so much because they are “opportunities for networking” but because they are activities that one genuinely enjoys. In other words, don’t golf because it will help you get ahead, golf because you like to play golf.
I fully agree.
Unfortunately, the world — and in particular, the business world — is full of people who are opportunistic, culturally shallow, and just plain dull. The astute observer can spot these people quite easily. They’re the ones over there, standing on the golf course.
OK, I’m being unfair. Without doubt, some of those suits on the links actually enjoy the game (and by “enjoy” I mean “enjoy playing the game and socializing with others,” not “enjoy yet another opportunity to kick someone’s ass and display their alpha-male status”). However, there is equally no doubt that a lot of those people are there for opportunistic reasons.
They are easy to spot. They’re the same ones who go to “gentleman’s clubs” (stripper bars) with clients in the evenings, and baseball/basketball/hockey games with their colleagues at every opportunity. During these events the topic of conversation rarely goes beyond (a) sports, (b) industry technical stuff, (c) tales of people striking it rich from good business opportunities.
I would rather nail my own head to the floor than endure any more of those conversations. As such, I gladly suffer a loss of professional prestige and opportunities by boycotting the golf links, sporting arenas, and strip bars.
The sad thing is that many (unfortunately not all) of these people have the potential to be interesting if you can get them out of their suits and out of their comfort zones. How about a picnic? A game of frisbee? Sadly, no. There’s something about clustering those (mostly) men together in those predictable environments that causes them to abandon their humanity and to climb into their robotic suits of opportunism and dullness. Clack clack clack as they playfully bump their blunted swords together. Spare me.
On the other hand, the infusion of more women into that environment might change things. Call me a gender stereotypist, but I think that, in general, women in suits are more inclined to have a broader range of interests than men in suits. My speculations as to why this may be true are far beyond the scope of this post, so you’ll just have to trust me on that. But let’s just say that men in packs easily fall into pack mentality and pack behaviour. Injecting women into the pack has been shown to dilute this effect. To me that’s a good thing.
However, if I were a woman with the same frame of mind as I currently have, I still wouldn’t buy this argument and run off to the links. I’d leave the dilution of the besuited man packs to women who actually like to and want to play golf. And unfortunately, I would have a difficult time not being judgmental towards them, but for completely other reasons. In case you don’t know it, golf courses are hazardous to our natural environments. They require an obscene amount of water, as well as chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, etc.), and their creation often disrupts natural wetlands and breeding grounds.
Read more about it here, and here, and here. For example, Tourism Concern claims that “An average golf course in a tropical country such as Thailand needs 1500kg of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides per year and uses as much water as 60,000 rural villagers,” or enough to supply the irrigation needs of 100,000 farmers. Maybe that has nothing to do with your golf weekend in North America or Europe, but try bringing the topic up with your colleagues and then see if that’s who you really want to spend your weekends with.
So forget about the golf. And forget about the suits. If you ask me, you’re better off spending your “free” time with people who are not in the same line of business as you. Diversify your mind. Diversify your life!