#EmbraceEquity - Why Golfers Should Take Note Of International Women's Day
It is important to celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD) on 8 March because it raises awareness of the ongoing struggle for gender equality and highlights the achievements of women throughout history. It also provides a platform to discuss the issues that women face today and to advocate for change.
Collective action and shared ownership for driving gender parity is what makes this global day so impactful and IWD quotes world-renowned feminist, journalist and activist Gloria Steinem, who once explained, "The story of women's struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights."
The aim of this year’s campaign, #EmbraceEquity, is to encourage people to actively support and embrace equity within their own sphere of influence to truly make a positive difference for women. For this reason, we want to highlight the recent documentary film Breaking With Tradition, because as far as women’s golf is concerned, these are an example of the stories and discussions that have, and are still, driving change for a more equitable golfing environment.
The film's overriding subjects of discussion relate to the impact that golf’s heritage continues to have on the sport, which as narrator Iona Stephen says, “Golf’s image has not changed much in the last century, it’s still regarded by many outsiders as a man’s game for the rich and famous."
This is true in many respects, yet the women’s game has come such a long way since the days when women were only allowed to putt as swinging was regarded as unwomanly! It’s an uplifting film that showcases some of the amazing trailblazers and the stories that have prompted discussions to help break down barriers and introduce change for a better future.
Through her sheer love of the game, Maxine Burton, honorary member of the PGA, tells the story of how she was one of 12 women who gave up their amateur status in 1978 to fulfil their dream of playing golf for a living and forming what is now known as the Ladies European Tour.
These 12 brave women certainly paved the way for golfers like all-time great Dame Laura Davies, who joined the tour aged 21 in 1985, just under a decade after it was established. Davies describes how women’s golf was on a high back then and the women’s tour was growing pretty much in tandem with the men. But then the ‘Tiger Woods effect’ changed everything, and as he began to attract significantly more prize money and sponsorship for the men’s tour, this left women in the shadow.
Sky Sports presenter Inci Mehmet and Meghan MacLaren also touch on discrepancies in prize money and gender parity. MacLaren recalls a club where junior boys weren’t allowed to play before a certain time on a Saturday or Sunday unless they had a handicap of 12 or below, but this rule did not apply to girls at all, even if they played off scratch. MacLaren explains that the rule was changed fairly quickly when the issue became apparent, but of course, the rule should not have existed in the first place.
Just to add, and as an example of the progression of some modern-day golf clubs, I noticed the footage of MacLaren playing golf in her beloved Newcastle United FC kit, and I often relay the story of how 7-year-old MacLaren learned to play golf at Wexham Park GC, and how her father David is completely and utterly convinced that the fact that she is a professional golfer today is because Wexham understood the difference between standards and stuffiness, and between enjoyment and enforcement.
As we all know, the subject of dress code often rears its head, however Belle Robertson, who is now in her 80s and one of Scotland’s most successful amateur golfers, muses about the dramatic change in fashion and the vast choice available to women nowadays. Belle talks about how she originally had to wear a skirt for international matches, but even when trousers were permitted, she had to arrive in a skirt and then change back into a skirt for lunch, before heading out again wearing trousers for the afternoon matches.
Since this film was released in January, one of the points that has sparked conversation and divided opinion was raised by BBC golf correspondent Iain Carter, who bulks at the term ladies. I agree with him, because while 'women' and 'ladies' mean the same thing, in my view, 'ladies' is old-fashioned and elitist. However, it will take a long time to break this tradition and for ‘women’ to roll off the tongue, as we have the Ladies European Tour, Ladies Professional Golf Association, Lady Captain etc ingrained in women’s golf culture. At least many clubs are veering towards gender-neutral tees and ditching the colour red, which is a good sign of moving with the times, although this is about trying to make the game more enjoyable everyone rather than another drive towards equality.
There are many industry experts interviewed in the film, such as VP IMG Golf Vicky Cuming, Co-Owner of Lynx Golf Stephanie Zinser, Head Greenkeeper at Wenvoe Castle Golf Club Lucy Sellick, and Founder of Women’s Golf Day Elisa Gaudet, who have used their influence to drive equity, demonstrating that this domain does not have to be exclusive to men only, and their stories will inspire people to continue to champion and drive forward the women’s game.
Breaking with Tradition has been rescheduled to run on Sky Sports Golf throughout March and is also available to watch on YouTube (watch below)