Today is International Women's Day and we caught up with Head Greenkeeper at Wenvoe Castle Golf Club, Lucy Sellick to discuss what it is like being a female within the industry.
We wanted to celebrate the achievements of Lucy and highlight that more women in the industry could follow suit. The message is clear - that we need more women in the industry. Lucy certainly gives the blueprint to any young women wanting to venture into the turf sector.
What made you want to become a greenkeeper and have you found any challenges with the industry being largely male dominated?
I fell in love with greenkeeping by accident. I grew up wanting to join the Navy, but a neighbour asked if I wanted some work. He was constructing a golf course and I started working there before and after school... I never looked back! I'm sure there's been a few challenges over the years, but nothing major. The industry has been very welcoming and it's full of peers all looking out for one another - myself included.
What would your main advice be to a young Lucy coming into the industry?
There are a few things I wish I'd learned sooner; firstly, get yourself a mentor. Someone that amplifies your voice, builds your courage and confidence so you put yourself forward for opportunities. Become part of a network. It was lonely in my early days, but social media has now made it easier to reach for support and guidance. Also, be yourself. In the early years, I became one of the lads so that I could fit in and lost the true me. And finally, never stop learning.
Have you found any major challenges along your journey?
The challenges have been with golf clubs, not the industry. Social and implicit bias happens unintentionally, but has a huge effect on judgment, decisions and how people behave. In pretty much all my interviews, I got asked can you lift heavy things and what about children? I've always worked hard to be a positive role model - not just for women joining the industry, but for golf in general.
Do you think more can be done to inspire young women to join the industry?
Greenkeeping can be tough at times and test the best of us, but the majority that do this work are so passionate about it. Sadly, we are only hearing negatives which isn't good when we are trying to recruit and retain staff, let alone encourage women. We need to promote the positives. Hopefully, greater exposure through initiatives like Women in Golf, the R&As Women in Golf Charter and First Green will help. Once they join the industry, we need to educate and support by shifting mindset; encouraging a positive can-do attitude, open to view new challenges, changing roles as opportunities etc.
What do you think about the BIGGA introduction of First Green to highlight the opportunities within our industry to schools?
The First Green initiative will benefit all young students by helping them apply their classroom knowledge in an outdoor setting (such as golf courses) and it's vital that both boys and girls are included. Women are particularly underrepresented in STEM education and, consequently, in STEM careers. This initiative should open the door to a wider diverse group of students that will get the opportunity to see greenkeeping as a career.
What are your own biggest achievements?
Some of my achievements are not what you think. One of my biggest is purely staying in the industry - through tough times in my personal life and getting knockbacks from promotions which made it tough to carry on. That's why I talk passionately about shifting mindsets; looking for that silver lining and having thick skin. I could have given up, but why should I stop doing something I love so much? Another would be becoming a National Board Member for Southwest and South Wales with BIGGA. To quote Sheryl Sandberg: "Have the courage to lean in and take a seat at the table." I now have a voice on issues with women in turf and the industry and its future.
Do you think that more can be done to try and balance out the industry diversity balance?
Definitely! I don't think the imbalance is intentional - it just mirrors what's going on in golf clubs where memberships are predominantly middle age white males. This can clearly be seen in the halls at BTME. I'm always asked, 'why do you think there aren't many women in golf?' My answer is always the same - there are not many females around golf to see greenkeeping as a career. We need to find a solution, look at other sectors that have achieved this and start to make progress.
Women in the turf industry recently came together for a power hour panel discussion and some networking at this year's GCSAA Conference and Trade Show in Orlando.