Why it pays to be Sporty for Aspiring Women Executives

How being sporty assists executive womenHaving a background in sports helps women land positions in the C-suite, a report of the EY Women Athletes Business Network states. Sports cultivate leadership and competitiveness, so women who are athletic are more likely to be hired over others.

Go for gold, and you’ll climb the ladder

Can you recall sporting experiences from your high school and university years? Did you play basketball or volleyball, or get involved in the swimming team? Because if you did, you might find yourself reaching for an executive position much faster than those who didn’t.

A recent report showed that 97% of women who occupy positions in the C-level have played a sport sometime in their lives, according to Ernst & Young’s Women Athletes Business Network and EspnW. The study surveyed 400 female executives, and 61% of the respondents said that having an athletic experience helped them advance in their career path.  Besides the obvious health, wellbeing, team play and social aspects, sport cultivates leadership skills in women and makes them determined to complete projects. It also makes them more disciplined than non-athletes and provides them with the inclination to motivate others.

The study also found that 71% of executives consider famous athletes as their role models, over their family members. More than half of them say that they are enamoured by the lives of these individuals. Who wouldn’t be? With their hard work and drive to be the best in their field of sport, the lifestyle of athletes is often encouraging. They exhibit the epitome of success, which women can emulate in the workplace to get ahead.

“This study confirms the significant role that participating in sports plays in providing the tools necessary to succeed in the competitive world in which we live,” said Donna de Varona, lead advisor of EY Women Athletes Business Network. And to demonstrate the relationship of sports and women in executive positions, de Varona herself is a former competition swimmer and a two-time Olympic Gold medallist. In fact, 53% of the respondents said they currently enjoy sport activities such as swimming and running.

Women executives want former athletes on their team

With the significant impact of athletics on the life of women executives, it’s no wonder they prefer to hire people who are similarly sports-minded. Prospective hires that have played in sports are more likely to be employees that exhibit leadership skills, discipline and are determined to see projects reach the finish line. “Sport teaches intangible leadership skills that can’t be taught in the classroom,” said Beth Brooke-Marciniak, global vice chair of policy at Ernst & Young. Athletics also teaches women to work well with team members, and it equips them with perseverance to improve their own weaknesses.  Moreover, these women do not easily succumb to pressure, and tend to be more reliable in the workplace.

It is important that we encourage younger women to participate in sports to instil positive traits such as competitiveness that will allow them to succeed in the workplace. This entails emphasising the concept of winning, so that young women will be able to develop the skills and mindset to become successful in the future. Aside from this, they also need to be taught how to handle failure and should be encouraged to improve their abilities each day. This will eventually pay off in their personal development, especially if they enter the corporate world.

The value of athletics for women has been the driving force of the recent Global Sports Mentoring Program spearheaded by the U.S. Department of State and espnW.  The initiative enabled women executives in the U.S. to mentor emerging female leaders in sports across the world for a month-long period. The program taught the young leaders to gain confidence and exercise teamwork and leadership skills through their continuous participation in sports. As for the mentors, having been empowered to strive for their dreams in their younger years, they were able to appreciate the impact of sports on the lives of the participants. “When you know personally the positive influence sports have on your life, you have a desire to pay it forward; there’s a powerful pass-along effect,” said Laurel Ritchie, president of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA).

The benefits of sports for the corporate world are also being realised in other areas across the globe. Several companies have entered their employees in teams of four at the Grant Thornton 5K Team Challenge in Dublin, Ireland. Aside from the friendly banter, the event helps strengthen team-building among employees, and it promotes a sense of well-being. These advantages can be extended well into the workplace if firms encourage their employees to go running or perform other types of exercise by providing them with a longer lunch break or flexibility in start and finish times. Employees will surely feel more energised and be more productive.

Provided that sports cultivate positive workplace traits for women, it is extremely important that we encourage young women to participate in athletic activities. This will encourage them to become competitive early on, and be determined to reach success through discipline and hard work. For women in the workplace, is it time to lace up your trainers and reacquaint yourself with your bike, ball or racquet? It could be your ticket to a C-level job.



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