Women Olympians set stage for more female business leaders: EY

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(Vancouver, 15 August 2012) For the first time in Olympic history, women represent a record-breaking 40%+ of total athletes, raising the bar on our need to encourage women in all segments of society — especially business, EY says in a new report.

High achievers: recognizing the power of women to spur business and economic growth finds that while all 205 participating nations sent at least one woman to compete in this year’s games, the great potential of women has yet to be fully realized.

“The London 2012 Olympics mark an important milestone in gender equity,” says Fiona Macfarlane, EY’s Chief Inclusiveness Officer and Managing Partner, British Columbia. “But we need to extend this progress to the world of business. Women are the largest emerging market in the world, with global incomes expected to grow by US$5 trillion in the next five years — almost twice the growth expected for China and India combined.”

Macfarlane adds: “Without a strong and visible investment in talent — and female talent in particular — businesses will not be able to thrive in today’s competitive marketplace. Female representation in the Olympics has reached incredibly encouraging levels, and it should inspire organizations everywhere to ensure they continue to harness the powerful potential of women in business, too.”

Sport itself might be a key piece of that puzzle. EY’s report finds that supporting women’s participation in sports and education, along with leading initiatives that increase their presence in senior leadership and on corporate boards, and helping them to start and grow their businesses, are each ways to level the playing field for women in all sectors, including business.

“The impact of sport on career development is undeniable,” says Macfarlane. “Sport enables women to develop leadership skills that contribute to their professional success.  And studies show that women in leadership positions can enhance organizational performance in measurable, quantifiable ways.”

The report finds that following factors can empower the broadest pool of talent:

  • Creating a social and economic environment that allows women to receive an education and start their own companies
  • Encouraging women to develop business acumen and managerial skills at large state-owned organizations or in the private sector
  • Enabling women to build relationships and connections through professional experiences in order to raise the necessary funds to start their businesses
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