Leasha Schwab, Founder of Ladies Leading Turf
Leasha Schwab is a successful golf course superintendent in Canada and loves her job.
Nothing unusual in that. Until you realize that she is working in a profession where nearly 99% of her peers are men.
“It’s the industry I’ve always been in so I’ve got used to it,” says Leasha. “But it can be a challenge.
“The women I speak to in the industry often say they have a hard time being taken seriously, whether it’s with golfers on their golf course, their fellow superintendents or board members.
“They can be talked above or not listened to and it’s a funny balance because you need to be strong enough to express your views, but you can’t become too emotional as you could be labelled as volatile.”
In her early career, Leasha says she didn’t know other female professionals and going to industry conferences was challenging.
“In the first three years of attending the Golf Industry Show I lost count of the number of times I was asked whose wife I was,” she says.
But working in a male dominated environment, Leasha has also had to deal with far more serious situations.
“I’ve had men in the turf industry that have been my biggest supporters, my biggest encouragers, and then I have been blatantly sexually harassed to the point I have had to take it to my association to get a guy terminated out of our association.
“When that happened I thought, if I was younger or if I didn’t have the support system that I did, I would be out of this industry in a minute. And so it made me want to create an area where women would be able to have some support for each other.”
Leasha’s response was to establish Ladies Leading Turf, a networking group to support and promote women in the turf industry that met for the second time at the Golf Industry Show in San Diego in February 2019.
Ladies Leading Turf
The response to the Ladies Leading Turf initiative, supported by Syngenta, has been overwhelmingly positive.
Leasha says one female turf professional told her she had been waiting 30 years for a group like this.
“I remember her face,” says Leasha. “She looked so happy to have other women in the industry around her. Most of the feedback was the same, whether it was women who have been in the industry for a long time or young women who are just starting, who are so happy to meet other women who can be their mentors and give them advice.”
But would more female superintendents benefit golf course businesses?
Absolutely, says Leasha: “Women and juniors are some of the fastest growing parts of golf right now. Golf is starting to become more of a family activity. I think if you have more women on your staff and on your board it brings a different perspective.
“The important thing for women going into this industry to realize is you are different; you are different to the men in this industry and that’s ok. You bring something new and your ideas may be a bit different, but that doesn’t mean they are not as valuable.”
Leasha acknowledges the golf industry has a long way to go, but she believes positive steps are being taken: “As much as I can be frustrated with this industry sometimes, it truly is, in my opinion, one of the best careers.”