The LPGA Women’s Network has partnered with FORAY GOLF, a company redefining golf apparel for modern women and their unique expressions of style, to celebrate the women who are challenging the status quo in golf.
The Women Beyond Par series puts a spotlight on the pioneers who are growing the game for all girls and women and blazing trails to accomplish their dreams.
Less than three decades ago, not a single Fortune 500 company had a female CEO, and just 9.6% of their board member positions were held by women. It would take incredible grit, guts, and endless perseverance for women to change those numbers and pave the way for future generations of females to succeed. Roberta Bowman was one of those women, and she’s just getting started.
In 1986 Bowman began working for Duke Energy, which is one of the largest electric power holding companies in the U.S., serving 7.5 million customers in six states. During her 25-year tenure at the Fortune 500 company, she became senior vice president and their first-ever chief sustainability officer. While on her road to success, she discovered another passion—golf.
“Golf opened up a whole new world of self-discovery for me as I progressed my game,” Bowman said. “I believe the currency of business is relationships, which are built on trust, camaraderie, and experience. I didn’t have the same technical background as my colleagues, so golf became my way of building those important relationships.”
One special relationship was with the LPGA. She got involved with the organization during the planning of the 2001 U.S. Women’s Open at Pine Needles in North Carolina when the tournament committee created an executive council of leading business women in the state to be ambassadors for the event.
Bowman chaired the executive council for the tournament in 2001 and again in 2007. It was the beginning of her ongoing mission to create ways for women in business to connect through golf. Eventually, she was appointed a board member of the LPGA, where she served for six years and is currently a board member of the ANNIKA Foundation.
When Bowman first began meeting LPGA players, such as Morgan Pressel, Lizette Salas, and Annika Sorenstam, she was inspired by their stories of discipline, endless hard work and overcoming adversity to achieve their dreams.
“I’ve learned a lot from the women on the LPGA. Some of them may be half my age, but I am absolutely awestruck by their strength, dedication, and success,” she said.
Bowman’s greatest inspiration is Annika Sorenstam and her transition from world no. 1 golfer to a leader in the golf community.
“There is something to be said about the world-class athlete…to know when the time is right to redirect their passion and energy onto something else positive is one of the greatest compliments they could have—not just as an athlete but a person and a leader,” she said of Annika.
Those stories inspired Bowman to foster more leadership programs for women through the game of golf. She said one of her greatest achievements was creating networking events for business women at LPGA tournaments.
“We are continually creating a pipeline of opportunities for women to play this great game in a way that makes sense for them and their ambitions, whether it’s for business, or camaraderie and relationships, or to compete,” she said. “We want them to feel welcome and well-equipped. I think it’s made a big difference in inspiring businesswomen to take up the game.”
The future of women in leadership looks brighter every day. As of 2017, 22% of Fortune 500 board members were women—more than double from the start of Bowman’s career, and almost 5% of Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs. While those numbers are still small, initiatives like the ones Bowman has fostered through golf will accelerate the progress made by so many.
“Sports are a great incubator for leadership, and business needs leaders of all ages and both genders,” Bowman said. “I think there’s a natural evolution in business to support professional female athletes, and it’s my passion for serving with the LPGA—and now the ANNIKA Foundation—to create opportunities for female, professional athletes to be role models, catalysts, and leaders.