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Through the Grass Ceiling... yet?

Peter McCormick


Even with the recent uptick in awareness of women working in turf, the number of female superintendents and assistants remains staggeringly low: a few tenths either side of 1 percent. Flipping that around simply underscores the obvious: golf course maintenance has historically been and remains 99 percent (or so) male.

Current statistics (as of July 30) from GCSAA indicate that of 18, 116 total members, only 285 are female (1.57 percent). Of the 8,778 superintendent members, 69 are female (0.78 percent).

It's nearly impossible to think of other industries with a gender gap so lopsided. In fact, the United States Department of Labor defines "male dominated industries" as those with 25 percent or fewer women. And 25 percent is a far cry from 1 percent.

It's nearly impossible to think of other industries with a gender gap so lopsided...

Women of color (or even men of color) in golf turf management? Forget about it. Probably single digits.

Even with the infinitesimal numbers, women working in turf are getting recognition thanks to the social media efforts of some. Leasha Schwab, Miranda "Mow" Robinson and Jessica Lenihan have become household names among those who frequent Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. All three were profiled in April 2018 by John Reitman here.

Schwab, superintendent at Pheasant Run Golf Course in Sharon, Ontario, in 2018 founded Ladies Leading Turf, an effort that culminated in a networking reception sponsored by Syngenta at the Golf Industry Show each of the past two years.

Robinson recently moved west from her superintendent position at Summerlea Golf Club in Ontario to become assistant superintendent at Cordova Bay Golf Course, Victoria, B.C. She is an editorial contributor to Golf Course Industry magazine.

Bayer hosted a Women in Golf panel discussion at GIS 2019, and has also hosted a Women In Golf series of events in Canada that will expand in September 2019 to a two-day event at Bayer headquarters in Cary, North Carolina.

While this activity and recognition is welcome and overdue, others have gone before. Patty Knaggs (Westchester CC, Hazeltine National, Bass Rocks), Cindy Johnson (Tumble Brook CC), Heather Garvin (Canton Public GC), Tracey Holliday (Sterling Farms GC) and Jo-Ann Eberle (Sunset Valley GC) have been TurfNet members at times over the years. Johnson, who has been at Tumble Brook since 1978, remains director of agronomy there and has been a TurfNet member for 25 years. Of course, there are others, but not that many.

In this multimedia series, presented by the Foley Company, we will visit with and profile a group of lesser-known female superintendents - past and present, including some international - who currently represent that small minority in golf turf management.

Are you a "woman in turf" with a story to tell? Contact John Reitman and we'll get in touch.

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I have been a Superintendent for over 33 years.  My background was in business.  I left the corporate world behind at a young age and have not missed it.  This is a great career and a good opportunity for anyone.  I love my career and would have it no other way!  Lianne Larson Superintendent/Director of Operations White Cliffs Country Club


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