Some of the most successful women grew up playing sports. So do girls need athletics to get ahead?
Danielle Friedman of The Daily Beast writes that according to one study, 82% of businesswomen played sports after elementary school. While one in six women call themselves athletic, nearly half of women making over $75,000 do. And hippest-economist-ever Betsey Stevenson found that girls' increased participation in sports explained a significant portion of women's gains in education and employment. Friedman also talked to some successful, sporty women — one of them, Harvard Business School grad and Rent the Runway founder Jenny Carter Fleiss, says of her track team past,
Our coach always had us write our goals on the back of our hands to be constantly reminded of them, to give one example. Today, I still keep a list of my personal goals posted right in front of me-and encourage everyone else at Rent the Runway to do this-as a constant reminder of the bigger-picture things we're working on.
So might girls' underrepresentation on the playing field lead to underrepresentation in the boardroom? And, on the flipside, could getting and keeping girls involved in organized sports help more of them become CEOs someday? Maybe — Friedman points out that playing a sport "provides participants with a peer group, and a feeling of inclusion. And perhaps most importantly, it helps cultivate resilience." And competition is definitely one way to practice setting and achieving goals.
There's another aspect of sports, though, that Friedman doesn't explicitly mention: aggression. Girls are still often told in many areas of their lives that it's not okay to conquer, to dominate, or to want to win. And although we may downplay these things somewhat when we talk about sports in the abstract, they're definitely still part of many people's athletic experiences — and the playing field may be the only place where some girls are unequivocally allowed to kick ass. It's still hard to translate this to the working world — the kind of aggression I've seen applauded in female athletes is still sometimes called bitchy in executives — but this could change if more girls played sports, and if the sports they do play were taken more seriously. I also wonder if coed sports could have a beneficial impact — maybe seeing aggressive girls as winning teammates could help boys learn to see them as effective coworkers too. Regardless, it's no surprise that being on a team can prepare girls to set goals, work with people, and bounce back from disappointment — but let's not forget that sports can also train us to win.
Female Jocks Rule The World [Daily Beast]