Addressing the United Nations General Assembly, International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach called sport a “natural partner” in realizing the UN’s agenda for global development.
“Sport is a powerful platform to foster gender equality and empower women and girls,” he said. “One of the key missions of the IOC is, in fact, to encourage and support the promotion of women in sport at all levels based on the principle of gender equality. Women athletes and Olympians can serve as inspirational role models for young girls around the world.”
Sport experience helps young female leaders rise. The foundation laid by sport participation is critical to women’s success in their careers.
A UN report points out that “the participation of women and girls in sport challenges gender stereotypes and discrimination, and can therefore be a vehicle to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. In particular, women in sport leadership can shape attitudes towards women’s capabilities as leaders and decision-makers, especially in traditional male domains.”
Sport backgrounds can also help C-suite leaders succeed. When they enter the boardroom, women athletes have a unique advantage. In addition to the strong work ethic, determination and team spirit fostered by their time on the playing field, they thrive on competition, which C-suite women who were polled in EY/espnW research noted was a bigger factor in their careers than did more junior women. Business leaders need to understand the direct relationship between athletics and careers and to partner with the athletic departments of universities to identify high-potential candidates, much as they do with finance, accounting or business departments. Companies must also develop policies specifically targeted toward identifying and recruiting athletes early on.
Read our full report (pdf) to learn more about how the sports world builds the leaders of tomorrow.