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Meet Harshada Abhyankar, One Of The Only Two Women Superintendents In The Golf Course Industry

  • IWB Post
  •  June 1, 2019

For a golfer, there is no better experience than a fabulous golf course in a spectacular setting with well-manicured greens, water bodies, serene and refreshing views that ensure you live a life beyond the usual. However, when it comes to the upkeep of this spac,e no one really knows what efforts go behind the scenes.

In a conversation with Harshada Abhyankar, we got a glimpse into the life of a golf course superintendent who has been working in this field for 15 years. What sets apart this remarkable woman from others is that she happens to be one of the only two women working in this field in our country. “Every day I learn something new,” says Harshada.

Harshada Abhyankar

With an MSc in Agriculture, Harshada has been dealing with turf maintenance of Poona Golf Club that is spread in an area of 100-200 acres of land. A male-dominated domain, golf course management requires tedious work that involves round the clock supervision and management due to its natural setting. However, Harshada manages her responsibilities immaculately, and describing a usual day in her life, she says, “My regular day starts at 6 in the morning as I have to the report to work by 8 am, and I leave by 5 pm. I stay 40 km away from my workplace which takes me about a one-and-a-half-hour commute daily. On the days when tournaments are scheduled, I have to reach the golf course by 6 am as I have to look after all the preparations before the tournament commences. There have been times when we had to stay late at the ground till 2 am as well. During the day I take care of 130 acres of land, where I look after the machinery involved for turf maintenance, irrigation, and the manpower. As my job requires a lot of field work I don’t get time to myself but the love for my job keeps me going.”

As the golf course superintendent, Harshada also looks after material procurement, import of machinery parts, their maintenance, planning of tournaments, maintenance of the existing area and the developing areas, and supervision of the daily wage labourers who are involved in the various activities to keep the Golf course in its best form.

However, being a woman, that too with a petite body frame, Harshad faced many challenges working in a male-dominated field. She said, “My struggle of working in this field started at home itself as my husband, due to the long working hours that my job requires, wasn’t very happy about it. He insisted I take up some other job that would be comfortable and wouldn’t require me to be present at work at odd hours. But, with the backing of my father who pushed me to keep doing what I was doing, my husband understood my love for this job and he had no option but to let me continue this work. Also, I guess over the years watching my achievements and how I have managed my personal life along with my profession, he didn’t ask me to quit.”

“Apart from this, there were other challenges that I faced on the job. You see it’s not easy to work with daily wage labourers who come from the poor sections of the society as they don’t take women seriously and that too a woman in power. So, initially, they would not follow what I said and to deal with this I had to be diplomatic. I always try to work with them not as a boss, but as a part of them so that they understand the requirement of the work.”

When asked if she heard any sexist remarks on the job and how she tackled the situation, Harshada said, “Since I’m petite I have heard comments like “oh she is a small girl how will she take care of the golf course and she is not going to last long”, but my response to them was by proving myself over a course of six months where I efficiently managed everything. I received compliments from my bosses for my work and as a result, I was even sent to Singapore to receive Asia’s best golf course award as a representative of the organization I was working with previously.”

Harshada even pointed out that being on the field keeps her very active but her work involves some other challenges as well that she has to face. “Physically the job is demanding as I have to be at every corner of the property to keep tight supervision for its maintenance as the area is so vast. Also, our property is run by an organisation which has an association of members. So since it is not owned by a single person we have to deal with the requirements and expectations of different members at different times, which sometimes get difficult.”

The layout of a golf course requires a sustainable environment for its maintenance and with places like Rajasthan, where water crisis could lead to problems, Harshada suggested some effective measures that can be taken. “For sustainability in dryland areas, provision for in-house watershed or catchment areas for rainwater harvesting should be made. Also, a sewage treatment plant can be installed which would help in using the treated water for irrigation.”

With many cases coming forward in the #MeToo movement, I asked Harshada if they were any cases that she came across in her field. She said, “I didn’t come across any such cases in this field, but at present, I am on the committee board as a presiding officer for POSH act.  My organisation has formed a committee where there is a lawyer, two senior members, and I as a presiding officer who look into matters related to harassment faced by employees. If anyone reports any case of harassment, the club takes action immediately and supports the victim. In my 15 years of career, I haven’t faced any sexual harassment, but I have seen my colleagues who have surrendered themselves just for getting higher positions.”

Suggesting measures that should be taken to handle such cases and equipping women to report them, Harshada said, “Just like we have formed this committee in our organization, if seniors of all the companies also form a panel or a committee like this, women will get a platform where they can open up about the issues they are facing. In our committee, we not only tackle company employee’s issues, but we also support women working in the daily wages category.”

She added, “I feel that harassment doesn’t start with a direct physical approach, it starts with small actions like somebody standing very close to you or other such small things and for these issues, people hesitate to approach the police because they can’t prove themselves. So here comes the role of committees within the organisations where such cases can be reported and necessary steps can be taken from there on.”

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