Golf beyond the game: Links to a more inclusive networking environment
Golf has, whether earned or imagined, a reputation in certain circles. It’s a church of sorts for some, a holy place to which its adherents travel on special days, with access available to a select few true believers. Men (it’s almost always men, and they’re usually white, the story goes) gather to tell one another about things like their golf handicaps while doing business deals that could create more value for company shareholders or reshape global markets, all while striking small, dimpled balls with clubs and riding motorized carts across well-manicured landscapes.
MIT Sloan’s Career Development Office (CDO) and Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), in partnership with the PGA Reach of New England Foundation, want to tell a different, more inclusive story.
“Writing the Code: Telling Our Stories - Networking and the Game of Golf” was held at the Robert T. Lynch Municipal Golf course in Brookline, Massachusetts. The event sought to introduce members of underserved communities to golf and provide the kinds of valuable networking opportunities business leaders crave. It was an idea that grew, appropriately enough, from a networking opportunity.
Golfing and Gathering with a Purpose
“I met PGA Reach of New England Foundation Director Michael Packard while attending the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference,” said Steven Branch, Associate Director, DEI, CDO. “We started talking while waiting in line to hear a featured speaker.”
“I want to loudly beat a drum to showcase and highlight all of the good taking place,” Packard responded when asked about his decision to join PGA Reach of New England. He later described wanting to impact others through “the sport and game I care about dearly.”
Historically, golf has largely excluded folks like those who attended “Writing the Code.” Organizations like PGA Reach of New England, for whom the concept of inclusion is a foundational pillar, have worked to both broaden golf’s appeal to members of underserved populations and invite them to share in the kinds of relationship-building industry leaders say they want. There’s lots more work to do, but efforts continue.
“We wanted to hand students new clubs for their bags, in a sense,” Branch quipped.
Alumni, Students, and Business Leaders Connect on the Course
“I love MIT and I love golf,” Jorge Calzada, Director of Data Science, Cogito Corp, MBA ’06 remarked when asked why he decided to participate. “So, when this opportunity came to help diversify golf and expand networking opportunities for MIT students, I jumped at the chance.”
Nearly 30 people took advantage of opportunities for golf instruction, informal interviews, and discussions about how to create and maintain relationships with their fellow golfers, skills the group of future business leaders might find useful. Participants included MIT Sloan alumni and staff and current students from across the MBA, Master of Finance, Leaders for Global Operations, and PhD programs.
“It was inspiring to see how alumni were impacting the world while continuing to strengthen their connections to the Sloan community,'' remarked O’Shae Bridges, Co-President of MIT Sloan’s Black Business Students Association, MBA ’23. “I found the event to be of immense value to me and our underrepresented minority community at MIT Sloan.”
The event demonstrated MIT Sloan’s global reach, as attendees represented 12 different countries including Bangladesh, China, Colombia, Germany, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, Senegal, Spain, the United States, and Venezuela. Additionally, nearly 90 percent of attendees said they’d like to attend future MIT Sloan events.
Making Relationships Matter
Experience and ability, while important for professional success, aren’t all that leaders need. Access to mentors, opportunities to brainstorm with peers and share ideas, and meetings with people positioned to offer entry into otherwise inaccessible spaces are valuable tools that can help position people for success.
“I learned people can build deeper relationships with other golfers, which can result in anything from a new professional connection to a business deal,” Bridges noted. “‘Writing the Code’ let me connect and network with alumni who said golf helped them achieve career goals similar to mine.”
“It helped connect me to another generation of leaders,” Calzada said.