In the past few days, I've spent a lot of time in meetings with men, and it's striking to me how many of them play golf. They talk golf with their clients and among themselves. They go on golf vacations. Golf even seems to be a valid excuse to miss work on Fridays. Given that I'm a woman in a largely male-dominated profession and "not from around here," it probably would be good for my career if I could learn to golf and to talk about it. In fact, in the ten years I've worked for him, my boss has offered me only two pieces of career development advice: Learn to play golf, and carry a briefcase.
There's one small problem: I LOATHE golf. Trying to direct a tiny ball into a hole an acre away is, in my opinion, a time-consuming, pointless exercise in frustration. The hours of practice time I would spend just to be a passable golfer could be better spent--oh, I don't know--shampooing my dog. Or cleaning the top of my refrigerator.
All this golf talk over the last few days has made me wonder whether there's a difference in what executive-level women chat about waiting for a meeting to start. I have to guess here, because quite honestly, I don't see a lot of executive-level women. Some are golfers, no doubt, and might talk about it. But not many, I bet. My guess is that most business women are too busy to golf. When they're not at work, they're home with children or taking care of elderly parents. Or cooking meals or doing laundry. Those obligations don't leave a lot of time for golf. Or much to talk about because, regrettably, discussion of anything family-oriented in the workplace is perceived as unprofessional.
So what IS the lingua franca for women in business? Current events? Too earnest and fraught with politics. The latest novel? Too intellectual. Fashion? Too personal. Kids' schools? Too domestic. The weather? Too dull. Celebrity gossip? Too trite.