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From Boards to Boardroom: Girls in Sports

July 23, 2013

la84_sl_072313_empowernetwork_com_women-entrepreneursCan girls who play sports become women who successfully compete in the business world?

There is some anecdotal evidence to suggest that is the case.  From Gillian Tett of the Financial Times:

In recent months Ernst & Young, the American consultancy, has been analysing sporting activity among senior female executives and leaders. And it has discovered that the higher the executive level, the more likely it is that a woman played sport at high school or college. Most notably, some 19 out of 20 women who sit in the “C-suite” – holding the title “chief something” – were sporty as a teenager; indeed, seven out of 10 still play sport as a working adult, while six out of 10 played sport at university. One in eight C-suite executives played sport professionally. However, among the middle levels of working women, athletic skill was lower: just a third of mid-level women, for example, played sport at university.


… as Beth Brooke, vice-chair of Ernst & Young says: “Not only do the majority of senior women executives have sports in their background, they recognise that the behaviours and techniques learned through sports are critical to motivating teams and improving performance in a corporate environment.”

I suspect, however, that there is something else more important – and subtle – going on too. Girls who play sport at school learn at a young age that it is acceptable to compete aggressively. They also discover that success does not depend on looking good and that it can be acceptable to take pleasure in winning. That might seem an obvious point, at least to an adult man. But it is not so self-evident to young girls who are exposed to modern Hollywood teen – or tweenie – culture. Indeed, when I look at the cultural messages that kids receive now from films and television, compared with my own childhood, I suspect that girls need sports today more than ever. Being an athlete is one of the few socially accepted ways for teenage girls to compete, without peer criticism.

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