Women and girls

‘Rise and Aspire’ conference celebrates five years of the Women in Golf Leadership Programme

The R&A
21 Nov 23
3 mins

Over 100 current and future women leaders in golf gathered from across the world in St Andrews recently to celebrate the success and sustained impact of The R&A Women in Golf Leadership Programme (WIGLP).

The ‘Rise and Aspire’ conference was held to mark the fifth anniversary of the WIGLP with attendees reflecting with pride on their personal development and career progression thanks to participation in the programme. The first WIGLP was held in 2018, beginning a drive to increase the number of women working at mid-to-senior levels in golf organisations around the world. It is run and significantly funded by The R&A as a key part of its commitment to the Women in Golf Charter. In total, 140 women from 34 countries have completed the Leadership Development and Foundation programmes over the last five years and the majority attended the milestone event in St Andrews. A further 40 women have embarked on their own learning and development journey in the last few weeks.

Tremendous success

Participants from Australia, Great Britain and Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Peru, Portugal and Serbia are among those to have graduated. Martin Slumbers, CEO of The R&A, was among those who attended the conference and he said, “An important driver for the launch of the Women in Golf Charter was to encourage and support more women to work in the sport and develop their careers. It has been a tremendous success so far and will continue to grow. “As we try to attract more and more senior women into the game working wise, it was apparent that there wasn’t enough experience and opportunity. So, in effect, we said we are going to create our own programmes and pathways to allow women to have the opportunity to learn, grow and develop their skills and go on to more senior positions.   “We are creating a more senior workforce for the industry and I am very proud of what we are doing, and the women who have gone through the programme and made it a success.” 

Diverse and inclusive

Jackie Davidson, Director – Golf Development at The R&A, has helped drive the programme with a view to providing women with more opportunities in the golf industry. “The Women in Golf Leadership Programme is our way of demonstrating The R&A’s commitment to our own Charter and ensuring that we are supporting more women to have careers in golf or volunteering in the sport,” said Davidson. “We want to make sure that golf is diverse and inclusive. We want to see more women leading in different organisations throughout golf. “That’s really how we mapped out the programme – what were the outcomes we were trying to achieve and then we determined how we were going to go about doing that. “We were very keen to ensure that it was about the personal development of the individual. It isn’t a course, it’s a journey of transformational change. The women who’ve come through the programme have visibly changed in their confidence, self-assuredness and ability to project themselves forward. Their strength of character has shone through. Overall, they are more equipped to face challenges. I’m not saying we have been solely responsible for their career progression but we have certainly contributed.”

Erika Malmberg - Conference Speaker

Malmberg, a golfer with a disability who hit the historic opening tee shot at the inaugural G4D Open in May, talked about how she has overcome barriers in golf and her experience of playing in the first championship at Woburn.

Conference activities

Individuals from cohort six of the WIGLP delivered the conference at the home of golf, providing thought provoking speakers, networking, reflection and an evening event. Dame Katherine Grainger was among a number of inspirational speakers in attendance, including mentors and facilitators of the programme. Grainger gave a motivational keynote speech about her career and journey from athlete to leadership positions and how to raise visibility and increase the impact of women’s sport. Erika Malmberg, a golfer with a disability who hit the historic opening tee shot at the inaugural G4D Open in May, talked about how she has overcome barriers in golf and her experience of playing in the first championship at Woburn. Michelle Wie West shared her passion about her work with The R&A as a global development ambassador in a video message, with a video interview also broadcast from Suzy Whaley, President of The PGA of America. Michelle Walshe and Stef Sword-Williams were also among the speakers on day two, while various individuals shared their personal experiences of the programmes having a positive impact on their professional lives.

Develop new skills

Katinka Dufour, Championship Director at the DP World Tour and part of the event team for the conference, said, “My highlight of the WIGLP was definitely being at the ‘Rise and Aspire’ event. “Just having a seat in the room with all those women with incredible stories, I’m so thankful to have this network available to me and to have been a part of this journey. “As part of the team delivering the event, my biggest learning has been the team spirit working together using our strengths but also taking the opportunity to learn and develop new skills has been absolutely key. I’m so incredibly proud of the team for what we delivered together.” Aimi Bullock, director of golf development (volunteer) at EDGA (formerly the European Disabled Golf Association), has also been hugely inspired as part of the WIGLP and combines her life in golf while living with the life-changing condition MS. “I will be forever grateful to be part of this amazing moment for female leaders in golf,” added Bullock. “The programme has expanded my network, helped me find myself and a place in the world. Most importantly, it has gained my confidence again which had been shattered following my MS diagnosis. “We wouldn’t be here without the vision and determination of Jackie Davidson at The R&A to bring the leadership programme to life and the amazing duo of Alison Townson and Dr Jenny Denyer as facilitators.”

Confidence boost

Shreena Patel, a Digital Marketing Specialist (Europe) for Adidas Golf, has come through the Foundation Programme, and said, “I really enjoyed having the opportunity to meet other women in the industry from around the world and becoming part of a network, where we have kept in touch after completing the programme. I recently got promoted to a new job and my group were some of the first people I told. “The programme has helped hugely with my confidence which has been a massive help especially as I was coming into an industry that I didn’t know too much about. Working in a male dominated industry I often found it hard to speak up even when I had good ideas so this has greatly benefitted me. “My coach was fantastic. It was sometimes like a therapy session as she (Lauren) unearthed a lot of things for me which has helped me progress my career and having that support from someone who has gone through different experiences opens you up to being OK with what happens and how to deal with situations that may arise.” Across the Leadership Development and Foundation programmes, a number of impressive statistics highlight the career development of the women involved.

Leadership Programme

  • 83% have seen career progression with almost 40% citing promotion within the same organisation.
  • 70% are very likely to be seeking progression with their career in the next five years, with 72% (of the 70%) aiming for this progression to be within the golf industry.
  • 81% cited the importance of ‘increased network and community of women who support me’ as a significant contribution of the programme.

Foundation Programme

  • 93% have seen career progression since starting/being on the programme.
  • Almost 90% cited increased levels of confidence as one of the main ways in which the programme has contributed.
  • 75% cited increased levels of self-belief and almost 70% increased level of management/leadership capability.
Davidson concluded, “The ‘Rise and Aspire’ conference provided an inspiring, learning and networking opportunity, as well as demonstrating The R&A’s commitment to continuing to support participants in their development. “The networking opportunities the programme provides are bringing women in the golf industry closer together with increased collaboration and support, not to mention all the friendships that have been created. Over 1,300 organisations across the world have signed the Women in Golf Charter as we continue to grow the sport for women and girls on and off the course.” For further information on the WIGLP, please visit: https://www.randa.org/en/key-projects/women-in-golf-charter Read more about the growth of the Women in Golf Leadership Programmes in a feature in The R&A’s online magazine for affiliated organisations, Developing Golf.