The third annual Sports Diversity & Inclusion Symposium is taking place this week at PGA National Resort & Spa, in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
The symposium provides a forum to discuss, evaluate and create tangible solutions that drive greater diversity and inclusion in today's sports culture. Designed to recognize, celebrate and encourage diversification in the world of sports, the forum will feature influential and prominent leaders from Olympic, Paralympic, professional and amateur organizations in expert panels, roundtable discussions and general sessions.
Before the start of the symposium, we had a chance to chat with Sandy Cross, Senior Director of Diversity & Inclusion for the PGA of America, and below is the e-mail Q&A.
PGA.com: Thanks for joining us, Sandy. Can you please tell our readers a little about the Sports Diversity & Inclusion Symposium?
Cross: Absolutely. The NFL and the United States Olympic Committee hosted years one and two respectively. Nearly 200 leaders from all levels of sport -- professional, Olympic, collegiate, amateur and recreational -- will gather to discuss, evaluate and create real solutions that drive greater diversity and inclusion in today's sport culture. We've got a great lineup of 38 speakers that will lead three general sessions and six expert panel discussions. Topics range from showcasing diversity and inclusion best practices, diversity and inclusion in sport media, multi-generational diversity, to the economics of diversity and inclusion and how to quantifying the return on investment and your supplier relations.
PGA.com: Can you talk about some of the programs or initiatives the PGA has in place to diversify participation in the game?
Cross: Sure. From a gender diversity standpoint, we've been leading the golf industry's signature program, Get Golf Ready, which provides a fun, fast and affordable introduction to the game, that really resonates with women.
For the next generation, our PGA Junior League Golf program has taken off like wildfire. Kids and parents are loving the team format that welcomes all backgrounds and skill levels. It's golf's version of Little League.
We're also quite focused on our supplier relations and increasing golf's spend with minority -- and women-owned businesses, which in turn brings those diverse business owners closer to our sport.
PGA.com: What strides have you seen made in the golf industry over the last several years in golf that promote diversity and inclusion?
Cross: Numerous strides have been made in recent years and continue to be made. While the alterations in the membership policies at places like Augusta National Golf Club and with the Royal and Ancient have been historical milestones garnering significant media attention, I think what's been taking place at PGA Professional-staffed facilities around America is tremendously impactful.
So many of our PGA Professionals have been making a concerted effort to ensure women are invited to, and feel welcome at, their golf facilities, and that the programs and services offered are truly tailored to meet a woman's value set. What women value out of a golf experience is very often different than what most men value. The advent of the KPMG Women's PGA Championship in June 2015 will be another big milestone as well, not only taking women's major championship golf to new heights, but bringing a really unique women's leadership summit component to the fore, which is being designed to assist women in advancing their career and business development through golf.
PGA.com: What would you say to someone who wants to pursue a career in golf, but might be reluctant because they fear acceptance?
Cross: I'd tell them to go for it! Golf is such a gift; a gift that keeps on giving. It's a game of connections -- personal and business -- as well as gateway to better health. Grab a friend, family member or colleague and seek out an introductory program like Get Golf Ready that's very social in nature. It provides a very comfortable setting to ease your entry into the game and lifestyle that surrounds golf. From a career standpoint, there are a myriad of possibilities in this industry. It's a $68.8 billion dollar a year industry in the U.S. that offers real opportunity for talented, aspiring, career-minded professionals who want to help evolve the face of the game and enhance the delivery of the game to meet the needs of today's multi-faceted consumer demographics.
PGA.com: Who inspired you to become so involved in the game?
Cross: It's interesting because I wasn't a golfer when I began working for The PGA of America 18 years ago. Right away I recognized that I should learn how to play the game if I wanted to be successful in the business of golf. I was tremendously fortunate to have bosses early on in my tenure that took me under their wings and showed me the ropes on the golf course. It's really paid dividends for me professionally and personally as well. I even met my husband on the golf course! What really drives me now is making golf as welcoming and as inclusive as possible to people from all walks of life, backgrounds, ages and abilities. As I said previously, golf is a gift and I want to help share it with as many people as possible.