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Privilege, Powerful Purse, and Promoting Equity on the Links

While my recreational golf league days have long passed, and as a parent found myself more often playing the 18 holes of the local putt-putt course, I found myself enamored during the recent 2024 Golf Hall of Fame Awards ceremony. In truth, I have never watched the awards before this day and only happened upon it as I turned on the TV for a little noise in the background while I tended to another chore.  The segment caught my attention as I reminisced about one of my favorite, well-known quotes:


“Real queens fix each other’s crowns, and they don’t tell the world it was crooked.”


To me, the quote is about encouraging and elevating other women for the benefit of all.


The segment was about the 13 women who started the LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association), and I encourage you to watch it. I am paraphrasing here, but in 1950, at a time when expectations were for women to be in the home, these women organized for the love of the game. They did it all, knocked on doors for locations, set up the course, put out the markers, organized the day, played, and then put the course all back together as it was.


It can be hard for many of us to imagine, liking something so much that you are willing to go against societal norms and go to extreme lengths to set up or adjust a “course” that was not designed for you so that you could pursue your passion.  This is the case for a lot of female trail blazers.


While a number of men have worked hard to get where they are in golf or other professions, this could be one thing taken for granted. The courses, games and rules are already set up for you. Sure, you have to work hard and earn your way to be the best; however, often this does not require you to wake up early to set up the course, then play it and then “clean” up at the end of the day.


The is not a criticism, it is just a way to explain privilege that also acknowledges hard work. Privilege is, at times, the idea of taking for granted that the course, the job, and other elements in life are set up for you. This understanding of privilege is where I see the break down happen when it comes to equity.


I interviewed men about their views on gender equity for my book Men-In-The-Middle. I heard this sentiment expressed various ways; one example some men raised is maternity leave. Some of the men said, if I took time from work, I would not get promoted either. When I did these interviews, I was in anthropologist mode, listening and trying to see the world from their viewpoint. I have not met a man yet that has had a 6-10 lb. baby come out of their bodies, whether naturally or c-section, so I might be hard for them to experience this medical procedure or the hormonal changes that accompany it.


Again, my point is no to be critical here, but show a form of privilege. Men live in a world, where the societal expectations and often the rules – written and unwritten – are set up for them, therefore, they might not see it another way but from their perspective.


In my career I worked with a wonderful, caring, kind man who had risen high up in his corporate career. One day he asked me, in all seriousness, why people could not get to work on time. He shared his challenges that he had overcome a life-threatening heart attack, yet he got up early each day and walk on the treadmill and still arrived at work early. I would not describe this man as arrogant, although he had accumulated a lot of wealth with his success and had some benefits in life that others did not, including an at-home spouse and part-time live-in help for kids and other duties.


I had to suppress my knee-jerk reaction of sarcasm followed by a dose reality talk; instead, however, I put on my best coaching hat and asked him a number of questions: Where was his treadmill? Did he have to drive to a club or was it in his house?  Did he have to care for any of the kids and get them ready for school before or after his workout? Did he have to share a car for transportation, or could he leave on his own schedule?


As I continued to gently ask questions before I shared my perspective, this smart, elite-school college educated senior leader stared at me like a deer in the headlights. The questions introduced scenarios he had not even considered in life. Of course, he had his own car, and the treadmill was in his house and his wife or part-time house help tended to the kids. Then I simply said, OK, what if you did not have the help, the treadmill, your own vehicle and more, how would or might that impact you?


By his own admission, he had not even thought of these other situations. I told him that was a form of privilege that he had. No doubt he worked hard to put himself through school and he sacrificed time with family and vacations and other things to get to where he is today. I continued to say that there are some areas that he didn’t have to worry about at all, and I would venture to guess he didn’t even consider.


He was an avid golfer. Had I watched this LPGA story before then, I would have said imagine having to wake up two-hours early before your golf tournament, just to get the course ready to play for you, i.e., put out all the flags and markers, rake the bunkers and more. At the end of the tournament, you could not go home until you returned the course to its natural state, and oh, by the way, there was no money for tournament winners. Do you love the game that much?


These 13 women did love the game. While I was not born in 1950, It is within one generation of my lifetime and one generation.


What I appreciated and respected about the version of this video that I saw on NBC news is the number of women golfers who thanked these trailblazers. Many of them acknowledged with great respect that had it not been for this group of 13, they would not be where they are today, doing what they love on a professional circuit. I loved the thought that the original 13 were adjusting crowns of other women in advance so that there would be an LPGA today.


Men can adjust crowns too. Mr. Terry Duffy is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at the CME Group, the world’s leading derivatives marketplace. CME is the lead sponsor the CME Group Tour Championship, and LPGA event. Duffy announced and enhanced total purse for the tournament of $11 million, including a record $4 million for first place and $1 million for the runner up. In addition, for the first time ever, every competitor who qualifies for the 60-golfer field will be awarded at least $55,000, increasing recognition for all players.

"As a long-standing supporter of women in business and sports, CME Group is pleased to continue our partnership with the LPGA to further elevate women’s golf,” said Duffy in an LPGA press release. “Beginning next year, the CME Group Tour Championship’s $11 million purse will be the highest on the LPGA Tour, and the $4 million first-place prize will be the largest single prize in women’s sports. Both of these developments will make our event even more exciting for the players and spectators, while bringing more parity to the game.”

So, ladies and gentlemen, look around and adjust those crowns; if not for today, then for generations to coming including children and grandchildren who will change the future for the next generation.


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