It’s a scene that happens in movies as often as it happens in the real world: business executives are out on the golf course making deals. Information is shared. A more junior employee jumps at the chance to be in the same foursome as his boss’s boss, which helps him rise through the ranks.
What’s often missing from these scenes, both in movies and in real life, are women. That’s what Stephanie D’Angelo, BBA ’11, wants to change.
“Throughout my tenure working at Deloitte (as auditor and resource manager), I noticed that people were networking outside of the four walls of the office and talking a lot about golf. Yet, I was one of the only professionals in my office that could not converse about it,” says D’Angelo. “These encounters made me realize that women in the workforce often miss out on critical networking opportunities because they are happening on the golf course.”
90% of Fortune 500 CEOs play golf, but only 20% of women in the corporate world are golfers. So, D’Angelo founded HerClub in 2021, which works to allow women more access and information to golf, to build new skills, join the conversation and lead them to more decision-making roles in the workforce.
Golf brings together all different corporate professionals for hours of friendly competition, networking opportunities and a way to strike business deals outside the office. The Starwood Hotel chain ran a survey with the executives who stay at their hotels and found that 97% of executives use golf to establish a closer relationship with a business associate.
“HerClub is the networking bridge for professional women that helps them identify how golf and business relate to one another as well as to break down the assumptions that block them from exceeding their career goals,” says D’Angelo.
The global nonprofit organization Catalyst reports that 46% of women feel that they are being excluded from informal networks at work, with golf being one of the leading networks they were feeling excluded. The study found that exclusion from those informal networks is the biggest impediment to reaching their career goals.
“Women oftentimes go to networking events to hear other female industry leaders speak but leave those conversations without any action items to help advance their career. To move into leadership positions, you must speak directly to those in power,” says D’Angelo. “Using golf as a talking point is a powerful tool. According to the Ladies Professional Golf Association, 50% of women feel that just being able to converse about golf at work has advanced their careers.”
Even though golf is the conduit to female empowerment at the HerClub, the main priority of the organization is to create a space for women to believe they are experienced and prepared enough to sit at the same table as powerful male figures.
“Years of societal conditioning tell us to count ourselves out of those leadership positions or to not step onto that golf course,” says D’Angelo. “We need must feel confident in ourselves in order to get into the space to talk to the people who can help us reach our career goals.”
D’Angelo highlighted that one way to enhance conversations within the workplace is to set Google alerts to cultivate relevant talking points about golf or research the nearest golf courses to provide a sense of familiarity of where your colleagues are likely to play.
“Building knowledge around golf or stepping out on the golf course is not going to automatically land someone a leadership position, but it will help them grow confidence in their position at a company or at social or networking events,” says D’Angelo. “We want to generate interest related to the game of golf off the green so women can maximize opportunities on the green.”
D’Angelo holds the goal to support and empower about 1,000 women on and off the golf course each year through in-person and virtual networking opportunities and leadership development programming.
“Representation matters and blind spots in corporate America are real,” says D’Angelo. “With organizations like HerClub, we can change that notion by helping provide a seat at the table and allowing women to step into those decision-making roles.”