Women Athletes Global Leadership Network
Perspectives on sport and teams
Almost all women senior managers and executives played sports at some level
- Overall, 90% of the women sampled had played sports either at primary and secondary school, or during university or other tertiary education. Among women currently holding a C-suite position, this proportion rose to 96%.
- 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.
Teams are the best way to solve complex business problems
- Companies today face highly complex problems for which traditional solutions may no longer be fit for purpose. Cross-disciplinary, diverse and international teams are increasingly seen as the way to address these issues. A high majority (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.
A background in sport is helpful to team performance
- There was strong agreement among female respondents that engagement in sports has a positive impact on the workplace. Among respondents, 72% of women agree that individuals who engage in sports at some level, or have done so, participate more effectively within teams than those who have not had this experience.
- 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.
- Despite the importance of teams to companies today, female executives surveyed recognize that creating high-performance teams can be challenging. More than half, or 55% of female respondents overall, think that it is more difficult to motivate teams than individual employees.
- Similarly, 87% of female executives agree that inclusive leadership, which attracts and encourages diverse perspectives and dissent, is an effective way of improving team performance.
This study teases out some of the links between women’s participation in sports at a personal level and their success in the corporate environment. Naturally, a correlation here doesn’t immediately imply causality – a strong sports player doesn’t automatically translate into a strong corporate manager. Nevertheless, it is clear that sport can play a positive role in developing the leadership skills of female executives and, especially, in helping to coordinate performance across a team. As organizations increasingly seek to rely on greater team collaboration to deliver upon their goals, and to improve the performance of their teams, these findings suggest that a sports-oriented background can be a useful tool for those women seeking to climb to the top. Additionally, they indicate that inclusive leadership is an effective way of improving team performance.