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Is getting on the board of directors as easy for women as a game of golf?

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In a new study, the National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School reveals that female professionals who play golf are 90% more likely to serve on a board compared to women who do not.

With the central focus on the role of social capital through golf, NUS Business School and the Department of Real Estate at the NUS School of Design and Environment discovered that the way people network with one another often operates on gender lines, suggesting that the more women participate in male-dominated social activities, the more they are accepted on predominantly male corporate boards.

After surveying more than 1,640 directors from 430 Singapore-based firms, it was unveiled that while women are 89% less likely to serve on corporate boards, playing golf facilitates their directorship. Interestingly, while close to nine in 10 men (90.6%) play golf, the advantage of playing the sport is more pronounced for female golfers than male golfers. By playing the sport, more than one in two females (54%) stand a greater chance to serve on a corporate board.

Digging deeper, there was also a distinction between larger firms and smaller firms, whereby female golfers from larger companies are 125% more likely to serve on a board compared to their male counterparts. Whereas in small firms, playing golf did not affect female board membership.

Our take on this research? Yes, the glass ceiling exists – and there is plenty of research to prove it, be it in terms of the gender pay gap, lack of women in STEM sectors, the inadequate representation of women in senior management, or a cursory look at the leaking talent pipeline comprising a majority of women.

But the way to tackle a gender-based glass ceiling is not playing more golf, in our view. The more effective way, we believe, is to implement sweeping, systemic changes, that create awareness of the issue, and consciously build solutions at the source of the problem, for example, at the school or university level if that’s where we first start to lose talent.

A number of companies are doing this – for example, Google’s regional MD, Sajith Sivanandan, spoke to us about what his company is doing to make the tech sector more gender-diverse. Another 15 organisations we spoke to, including Facebook, Singtel, and DBS Bank, shared their pledges this past International Women’s Day, on making development of women leaders a priority.

What is your take on this issue? Please share with us on Twitter @mag_HR.

ALSO READ: Take your marathon-running colleagues seriously: Running is contagious

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