In 2016, Emily Braithwaite competed for Rutgers University at the Collegiate Turf Bowl, an annual event sponsored by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA). At Turf Bowl, competitors identify diseases and insects and calculate application rates of chemicals and fertilizers, among other things.
Braithwaite and her teammates were all women. When they got to Turf Bowl, they realized they were the only all-female team. That’s when Braithwaite realized that something needed to change in the male-dominated world of turf management.
“We need to do more to promote turf management careers to women,” said Braithwaite, now a faculty research assistant in Oregon State University’s Turf Management Program. In 2016, women represented about 0.5% of the GCSAA membership – 102 out of 17,500.
“Women in the industry often face discrimination and harassment,” she said
Braithwaite is one of 50 women from the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada who were selected for the exclusive Bayer Women in Golf event to be held in Raleigh, North Carolina, from Sept. 18-20. The event provides an opportunity for professional development, personal development and agronomics.
“I’m looking forward to learning from and engaging with other female professionals in the industry,” she said.
Braithwaite conducts applied turfgrass management research in pathology and disease management. She also leads integrated pest management trainings in Oregon schools, and serves as a co-investigator on two multi-institutional projects funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Specialty Crops Research Initiative.
Braithwaite is working to get more students, regardless of gender, interested in careers in turf management. So far, plans include an ambassador program, comprised of current and former OSU turf students, to spread the word about turf management.
“High school students need to be our focus,” she said. “A lot of girls and boys are interested in sports and we can give them advice on how they can turn their passion into a career. Most of them don’t know they have that option.”