Research shows that women and girls who participate in sports are less likely to take drugs, engage in abusive relationships, or have unwanted pregnancies. And they aremore likely to graduate from high school, receive post-graduate degrees, and earn more money.
A new study, coinciding with the 41stAnniversary of Title IX, released by accounting firm Ernst & Young has added an additional benefit of Title IX and the impact of participating in sports –becoming a C-suite business executive.
Ernst & Young commissioned a global online survey to investigate the important role of sports in the development of female executive in connection with its Women Athletes Global Leadership Network, whichI reported on last March. The first-of-its-kind network is designed to connect female elite athletes with business and government leaders who can mentor, inspire, and open doors after their competitive sporting career.
“When I think about Title IX, we see the societal impact that it is having, ” saidBeth Brooke, Global Vice Chair, Public Policy for the Ernst & Young organization, a US Title IX scholarship recipient and one of Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women.
“We all know business financial performance improves when more women are in senior levels of management and leadership.”
Brooke and Donna de Varona, Olympic Champion and advisor to Ernst & Young’s Women Athletes Global Leadership Network, have long believed in the strong correlation between sport and success in business, most of which anecdotal or based on outdated research. In the end, their assumptions were validated.
The study found that 90% of the women surveyed had played sports either at primary and secondary school, or during university or other tertiary education, with this proportion rising to 96% among C-suite women. Moreover, in comparing C-level female respondents to other female managers, far more had participated in sports at a higher level. Ultimately, 55% of the C-suite women had played sports at a university level, compared with 39% of other female managers.
The respondents included 821 senior managers and executives (40% female, 60% male) who work at companies with annual revenues in excess of US$250 million. Together they represented 15 different countries (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Russia, South Africa, United Kingdom, and United States) and a wide range of industries including but not limited to agriculture, automotive, entertainment, media and publishing, government/public sector, financial services, and technology.
“I find it fascinating that sport has such a strong connection to success in business,” said Brooke. “Arguably C-suite women are some of the most successful women, and more than half of them played at a more advanced level than just the general population of women in business that had sport in their background.”
Additional research findings include:
- 90% of women agree that teams are the best way to address increasingly complex business problems, while 82% agree that improving their organization’s ability to develop and manage teams will be essential for future competitiveness.
- When comparing C-level female respondents to other female managers, a far higher proportion had participated in sports at a higher level, especially at university or as a working adult. For example, nearly seven in ten (67%) women now occupying a C-level position had participated in sports as a working adult, compared with 55% of other female managers, while 55% of the C-suite women had played sports at a university level, compared with 39% of other female managers.
- More than three-quarters, or 76%, of women agree that adopting behaviors and techniques from sport in the corporate environment can be an effective way of improving the performance of teams.
“As a Title IX advocate and the first president of the Women’s Sports Foundation I have always felt that if you have numbers and research you can make your case,” said de Varona.
“I am thrilled about this research. I think the women who are athletes that have not awakened to the fact they have all of these skills will learn from the research, and those who are looking for employees and have yet to discover that diversity is strength.”
For more information visit the Women Athletes Global Leadership Networkwhich shares the inspiring stories of female leaders and their connections to sports.