- RACE TO CME GLOBE
Partner of the LPGA Tour - Co-Founder, FairWays to Leadership
In 2004, I left the federal government for a position in the private sector with Fannie Mae. After just two weeks on the job, my boss asked me if I intended to play in the women’s golf tournament. I found myself scrambling to figure out what to do next. Golf isn’t something that happens very often in the government sector, so I was completely out of my element. I borrowed clubs from my neighbor and went off to the event scared out of my wits.
At the event, I was greeted by a golf pro who immediately put me at ease. I met women who were also just learning the game and together we leaned into being out of our comfort zone. I fell in love with being outside, playing a challenging game, laughing with other women.
My first real training was at the Dana Rader Golf Academy for women. Dana and her team were incredible teachers because it was about more than just learning the game. There again, I had that experience of feeling welcome and empowered.
During the pandemic and racial reckoning of 2020 my husband invited his students to the golf course. After just one lesson it was clear that the invitation to play was about more than just learning a new game. For the students, just showing up at the driving range was an act of courage because it was the first time they were invited into this elite space and there were very few women or people of color there. We quickly realized that golf could be a catalyst for leadership training and a path to inclusion. So, FairWays to Leadership started as a simple invitation to play a great game but became a leadership development program. Wrapping the curriculum around leadership traits like mindfulness, strategy, integrity, and adaptability took it a step beyond putting a club in a student’s hands. It’s about creating empowerment and lasting social change. As I wrapped up my federal career, and shifted to executive coaching, I found a new purpose in building a program that invests so directly in the next generation of leaders.
So many professional women that I know have a story about being left behind when their male colleagues go out to play golf. One example is a woman who worked on a team with three men. When it came time for feedback for annual reviews the men would get 4 hours on the golf course with the boss while she got a 30-minute meeting in his office.
Golf is growing in popularity and will continue to be an important place to do business. I want more women to have access to the game. As we develop our students, the goal isn’t to turn out pro golfers (although there are quite a few naturals.) We are trying to create great leaders that walk away with confidence and competence with the game.
Latina’s need to see themselves reflected in the game. When I started to play Lorena Ochoa was a rising star. When my family and I attended tournaments we followed Lorena, we cheered for her, and we watched her win. My daughters saw a Mexican woman lead the sport and they saw me take enormous pride in Lorena’s accomplishments. One of my daughter’s went on to play on the varsity golf team at her high school. In my daughter’s mind, being good at golf wasn’t out of reach.
One of the things that has surprised me the most in building FairWays to Leadership is the number of women who leave the program having played golf for the first time with their fathers, brothers, or uncles. Latin culture tends to be hyperaware of assigning masculine and feminine roles. We need to overcome cultural stereotypes and be relentless in including our daughters in the game. I give my husband a lot of credit for teaching both our daughters to play, giving them full access to the game.
Lean into being uncomfortable. Understand your relationship to risk taking and consider if it’s holding you back. I grew up with a voice in my ear urging me not to rock the boat and to respect authority almost without question. It’s a common narrative I hear from Latina’s. What if we stopped listening to that voice?
I love this question. La mas chingonas! Nancy Lopez, the queen for sure. Lorena Ochoa and Gaby Lopez. I’d love to hear the advice that Nancy and Lorena might impart to Gaby and hear Gaby’s goals for the future. I’m smiling ear to ear just imagining this round of golf.