05 September 2013

Are sporty women more successful entrepreneurs?

Sporty women are more likely to become successful entrepreneurs, new research suggests. Ernst and Young quizzed 821 senior managers and the results of the poll show 90% of high-level female executives played sport when they were at school or university.

The firm claims its survey shows sport plays an important role in developing female leaders and earlier this year it launched the Women Athletes Global Leadership Network. This network aims to help elite athletes pursue careers in business when they retire.

It is thought that participating in sport helps make people good team players in the office. They are also more likely to have the motivation and energy to work hard to achieve success.

Ernst and Young’s report claims around three quarters (72%) of women believe people who have been involved in sports work better in teams than those who haven’t. And around the same number (76%) claim some of the techniques used to achieve success in sport could also be effective in the boardroom.

Most female executives were sporty teens

The poll claims those women at the very top level of management, including chief executives, chief financial officers and chief operating officers, are even more likely to have a sporty background.

In fact, 19 out of 20 women in the ‘C-suite’ (meaning their job title starts with the word chief) were athletic teenagers, while 70% still enjoy playing sport in their spare time. One in eight C-suite female executives even played sport at a professional level.

Sports and networking opportunities

Sport also offers valuable networking opportunities which can help people make the contacts they need to advance their career.

Karlyn Lothery, a Washington DC-based communications consultant, told the BBC that sporty women usually make confident business leaders.

She says: "When the athlete-turned-executive has a point, they make it. [Athletes] have this confidence of, 'We are going to do this, we will do this, we can do this, and we will win.' There's greater strength there.

"They usually have stronger resilience too, because in sport you have to learn to lose but then pick yourself up and get back in."

In the US the link between sport and business is well recognised. Heels and Helmets is a training camp for women who want to improve their business skills using sport.

Shavannia Williams, President of Heels and Helmets, says: "Sport teaches us that you cannot allow your accomplishments to make you complacent, and you can't allow your fears to stop you from soaring.”

So what strengths do you need to succeed in both sport and business?

  1. The ability to work in a team
  2. Discipline and self-motivation
  3. Stamina and a commitment to hard work
  4. A competitive nature and a drive to win
  5. An awareness that success only comes as a result of effort

Top tip

Why not aim to boost staff productivity, along with fitness and team morale, in your work environment, by getting together a workplace sports team or organising regular gym visits. You could even host a tournament against other companies in your business centre, such as five-a-side football or even bowling, to stir up a fun, competitive spirit.