Less than 5% of Fortune 500 companies are lead by women. That statistic drops even lower when we look at worldwide business leaders. Yet, among that less than 5%, there’s a hidden trend that deserves to come to light: the majority of those women were athletes. Leading consulting firms estimate that we’ll see a balance in male and female executives in the year 2115, but how can we accelerate that timeline? Perhaps girls’ sports is the answer we’ve been waiting for.
Researchers agree that playing sports is critical for the development of female leaders. Author of The Confidence Code Katty Kay explains that “when you’re playing sports and you do badly, you have no choice but to pick yourself up and carry on. That process really builds confidence. It’s an incredibly useful proving ground for business and leadership.” Thus, prioritizing women’s sports is investing in leaders of the future. Here are the key take aways on the impact sports have on women leaders:
- Sport participation is correlated with higher salaries. Women who played sports in high school have been found to have higher salaries, says Chief Economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, Betsey Stevenson. Athletic background is linked with an average of a 7% higher salary when compared to women without an athletic background. It’s unclear whether girls who chose sports develop more job-friendly skills due to sport participation, or if girls who are already possess these skills chose to participate in sports at higher rates.
- Competition is key. It’s no surprise that women athletes have strong work ethics, high determination, and value team spirit, but a major driver of their success in the workforce is competition. Athletes aspire to be the best. In a study of women executives, 74% reported sports backgrounds help to accelerate women’s careers, and 94% of C-suite women played sports.
- Sports have undeniable outcomes. Girls who play sports have been found to have greater social and economic mobility, meaning sports can be a launching pad for women to increase their economic security. Girls in sports are less likely to use drugs, and have been found to perform better in school than those who do not. These results are even greater for girls in sports who are from minority groups.