Let's take a look at some of the popular golf forums out there (data provided by Quantcast):
Notice a pattern? There are significantly more men on golf forums than women - about 3 times as many. What can be done to equalize things a bit?
Once again, I'm calling on my forum friends to tell me what they think - why do so few women join in on the dialogue and what needs to be done to increase their numbers?
First, let's ask Aimee:
Aimee reiterated similar sentiments about this subject as she did about why so few women play the game, "Golf is still seen like a fraternity or men's club; there is a fair amount of misogyny on the boards."
The key to get more women into the forums? "Just have women that you know join up and post. If you don't feel like you are alone out there it is easier to join in."
I can see that. Safety in numbers and all that.
Here's what Apryl had to say...
"I believe the "men only" mentality that is prevalent on the forums keeps many ladies away. I've written articles that people have made comments like, "Amen, brother". They assumed that everyone writing was male. It almost seems like women are supposed to stay in the LPGA forum and talk about fashion if they are to be there at all."
So how do we change that? "You got me there! I'm not sure what would get more women to participate. If women feel welcome on the forums they will likely go and stay as active particpants."
Hmmm...so women don't feel welcome. I wonder if the forum owners know that or even care?
So what does the forum funny girl, Christy, think?
"Women aren't supposed to be knowledgeable or outspoken about anything regarding sports. I also attribute low numbers online to the theory that women are hesitant to share information online for fear of stalkers or identity theft."
Wow, I never thought of the stalker or identity theft issue. So what can be done? "I dunno. It takes a special kind of person to get on the forums and brave the waters. If I felt like I met someone who has the passion, I would definitely invite them to check it out. It's so funny....allrecipes.com is so big....why can't golf be too??? HAHAHA!!"
Interesting comparison. I thought I'd check out allrecipes and see their makeup. The split, according to Quantcast 37% men / 63% women. Makes you wonder if the men don't feel welcome in the kitchen ;)
Patricia is extremely active online with her blog, on facebook and twitter. Although not a big fan of forums (Golf Girl prefers to connect and exchange ideas on Twitter, sometimes on Facebook or her favorite blogs because she finds more interesting people there), Patricia is an expert in understanding the issues of women golfers online...
"Currently a lot of the women who do play golf are 50 and over, and that demographic is just now getting on-line. There are exceptions but many are just now becoming really active on the internet. I think you'll see that change quickly...very quickly in the coming years, as everyone gets high speed connections and print media disappears."
So, what can we do? "Evangelize as much as possible, get your url out anywhere women golfer congregate. Do what we're doing :o)"
Now, I should be including what Kevin had to say about this subject, but after talking with him about it on the phone for about 1/2 hour, I realized his experience deserved its own article. Check it out in Inside Golf Magazine: Golf Forums - The Naked Truth.
But Kevin did say, based on his wife's comments, that if the forums offered more topics that interested women, like golf fashion, then maybe more women would participate.
So, it would seem that women golfers don't join forums for the same reason that women don't take up golf in the first place. Women don't feel welcome in those male dominated worlds.
That may be true, but I think getting more women to participate in golf forums goes beyond putting out a Welcome Mat. I've been participating in half a dozen golf forums for just over a year now and it's pretty evident to me that the women who do join in on the discussions are a unique breed. They tend to be quite confident and can dish it out as well as take it. They usually have a pretty decent golf game and are not afraid to mix it up with the boys. These ladies are thick skinned; they are NOT your average women golfers.
Most women I know would be quite amazed at the "discussions" that take place on golf forums. Forum members can be brutal at times. During the Big Break series, the contestants were recommended NOT to read the forums for good reason. I was the first one to second that recommendation. I still can't believe what forum members said about the ladies on BB Ka'anapali. It was sad actually.
Yes, I certainly have seen some nasty stuff out there. I remember a young woman posting a question on a forum about why some guys don't like playing with women who are better than they are. The responses got really ugly and I ended up sending her a personal note pleading"Say no more and walk away from this thread. You're digging yourself into a grave." Unfortunately, she didn't take my advice and the results were not pretty. I've seen her recently on other forums.
Switching forums is not unusual and it's usually because something unpleasant occured. Check out Christy's (imsocrabby) story:
"I'm a 'homegirl' by nature so I usually stick to one place. My addiction started at thegolfchannel.com. That ended quickly when I realized it was really just a place to argue with people. So then I ended up at another site (of which I was banned and then reinstated after quite a long lay-off). I really set roots there....made some great contacts...met some really great people. As with all things 'internet'....sometimes personalities don't meld well and things happen. I really feel like I got the raw end of the deal by a heavy handed moderator...but...oh well. All the while...I was quietly sitting in the background...'trolling' at GolfWRX.com. When I lost my priveleges at the other place...I started participating more there. I recognized some old faces from my old home and decided to make it my new one. It is such a large site but feels so 'homey' at the same time. There is so much good information flying around there....I get stuck for extensive periods of time. Those guys that run the site really have their stuff in order. They're doing a great job."
Yes, it can be pretty rough on forums and if you want to contribute, you better be prepared to get dirty. I am not sure why that is - why do forums turn some gentlemanly golfers into online bullies? As Kevin shared, "It's so easy to sling mud in the forums. People say things online they'd never say to your face."
Yes, I've seen that kind of behavior. People hiding behind their avatars and nicknames. But to be fair, I've seen the other side too - nice people like Aimee, Apryl, Christy and Kevin, who make the forum experience entertaining and informative. I just wish all the members could be like them. If they were, I bet we'd see more women online.
This week I will be interviewing Josh, owner of TheHackersParadise. THP is a fairly new forum that is co-owned by a woman. Come back later this week to find out what THP is doing differently to attract more women to its membership.