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March 9, 2023

AEC female execs are hooked on golf, networking

  • Many women have been left behind when it comes to workplace visibility, especially with executives who value face time on the golf course.
    Special to the Journal

    Image courtesy of Skanska [enlarge]
    The Pro Shop empowers women into greater positions of influence through the game of golf.

    Dana Kimble's got game — on and off the links.

    Kimble, senior director of business development at Skanska, recently founded a nonprofit called The Pro Shop to empower women in architecture, engineering and construction into greater positions of influence through golf.

    The Pro Shop will be hosting a one-time-only movie premiere of the new film “Playing Through” at the SIFF Cinema Egyptian theater, 805 E. Pine St., at 5:30 p.m. March 18.

    Based on true events, the film tells the story of Ann Gregory, a pioneering female athlete and civil rights advocate. Gregory was the first black woman to play in the United States Golf Association.

    This event will be a fundraiser with ticket sales going toward The Pro Shop and the Jackie Robinson Foundation, a nonprofit organization that gives scholarships to minority youths for higher education, as well as preserves the legacy of Baseball Hall of Fame member Jackie Robinson.

    For Kimble, golf is a chance to play her long game: developing business ties.

    “Women like me are finally starting to see the career benefits to picking up the game,” Kimble said. “I want to help more women realize how powerful the game of golf can be, both as a tool to build business, but also to advance their position within their own companies.”

    The idea for The Pro Shop sprang from Kimble's realization that networking while playing golf has been a male-dominated activity.

    As she started playing in more industry golf tournaments, Kimble said she noticed that there were a disproportionate number of men compared to women who were playing. On average, participation by women was less than 10%, she said.

    “I continued to see the same women playing in these tournaments, and they were equally as frustrated at the lack of representation of women,” she said. “Not only do we love to play, but golf has helped us build our networks and our careers. Our industry is evolving with gender equity, but we didn't see it on the golf course. We wanted to be part of the solution to introduce more women to the game. Together, we started The Pro Shop.”

    Mixing business with the pleasure of golf, she said, means that some businesswomen have a learning curve as they navigate the highs and lows of learning the game.

    Raw talent in business golf is not de rigueur, however a level of familiarity with the game goes a long way.

    “It can be really intimidating and overwhelming to get started when you don't know anything about the game,” she said. “I know because I've felt this way. I felt like it was harder than it needed to be when I started on my golf journey. We want to make it easier and more fun to say yes to the game.”

    Many sports, such as tennis, softball, skiing and soccer, lack the social opportunities that golf provides — long fairways and tranquil settings, where business partnerships can be forged during a two- or three-hour outing. Forbes magazine recently noted that 90% of American CEOs believe golf is an important networking tool.

    “Relationships are the foundation of business development,” Kimble said. “There are many tools that are used to develop, build and nurture the connection with clients and business partners. Dinners, lunch-and-learns, happy hours, etc. All activities that are used to connect.”

    Linking The Pro Shop with the film “Playing Through” was a natural, Kimble said. “More people need to know who Ann Gregory was, the legacy she left behind, and the countess people she continues to inspire through her story,” she said. “I wanted to introduce the legacy of Ann Gregory to the greater Seattle community. I'm confident people will be inspired; I know I was.”

    At Skanska, gender equality has been a frontline issue for a decade. Skanska advocated for gender equality since the creation of the Skanska Women's Network in 2013 to ensure programming and advocacy for women at Skanska. The program has pursued pay equity advocacy through an internal program called Project Connect, a national effort to align roles, career paths and pay.

    “Slowly the presence of women in business is growing, and they are being acknowledged for the unique skills they bring to the table to drive the growth and success of companies,” Kimble said. “Women in business have been slower to pick up the game of golf, as well. Historically, this has been because their male colleagues haven't always thought to invite them to play. The consequence has been that many women have been left behind when it comes to workplace visibility, especially with those executives who value face time on the golf course.”

    Like any sport, golf takes time to master, as Kimble, a former competitive athlete, said she found.

    “I started golfing about three years ago, for the sole purpose of helping advance my career,” she said. “I started noticing that many of my male counterparts were getting face time with executives because they played golf together. I was intrigued by the game but was scared to get started. I'd never swung a club, didn't own any gear and didn't know the rules.

    “It was when I saw that it was really limiting my career potential that I decided to take the leap,” she added. “I started taking lessons, and it turns out that I love the game. I was hooked instantly. Now I have the confidence to say yes to play in industry tournaments, with clients and with executives at Skanska.”

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