Last year I completed an Independent Review, commissioned by the UK Government Scotland Office, which examined the “Role and Contribution of Women to the Scottish Economy”. The subtitle of the Review was ”Womenomics”, a term coined in Japan to help a very male dominated culture and society recognise the economic contribution that greater participation by women in civic society and business could achieve.
Given the recent decision by Muirfield Golf Club members to continue to exclude 52% of the population from its membership, sadly it seems that within Scotland we also still have work to do to convince a minority of people of the value and economic benefit that a more diverse and equal society can deliver.
This decision, as it stands, will mean that the British Open, one of the most iconic and prestigious golf tournaments in the world, will not return to a venue just twenty-one miles outside Edinburgh, our Capital City. The loss of this event to the Scottish economy is estimated to be in the region of £100m, the impact on our international reputation and national brand as a welcoming and caring nation is immeasurable.
Major sporting events are a key economic driver for Scotland and our reputation on the world stage has been hard earned through significant public and private sector investment in infrastructure, facilities, marketing and promotion. The 2015 Open Championship in St Andrews delivered £140 million of economic benefit to Scotland – the largest amount ever achieved by a golf event in the United Kingdom or Ireland, according to an independent economic impact assessment, commissioned by golf’s governing body the R&A.
In Scotland, we host the Open more times than any other part of the UK. It brings hundreds of thousands of visitors to this country and generates significant business for hotels, restaurants, local businesses and the wider Scottish economy. But most importantly, it supports valuable and much needed jobs in tourism, hospitality and retail. All sectors dominated by female workers. This decision by a small group of private club members potentially has ramifications for many women beyond the Clubhouse or course. It can be reversed and like many, I hope that it is. If not on social and moral grounds, then surely in terms of its economic and business impact.
In July this year, the Ayrshire town of Troon will host the 145th Open. The Royal Troon Golf Club is also currently consulting its members on whether to end its “men-only” membership policy. Its Captain has already stated “it is important that the club, much like the wider game, reflects the modern society in which we exist”
Let’s all hope Royal Troon members better understand the concept of “Womenomics” and why equalities and diversity matters in our civic society.
Dr Lesley Sawers