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4 November 2014

Women: Play Sport and Get Ahead in Business

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Director – Consumer PR & Communications


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by Amanda Fone

94% of 400 senior female executives surveyed by EY Women Athletes Network and espnW said they play regular sport. 61% of these say that sporting involvement has helped their career success. 75% say that being competitive is an asset to their leadership style and ‘having the appetite to win’ is a good thing. A strong work ethic, being a team player and determination are all characteristics associated with people who play sport.

I am sure the same statistics are found in leaders with an armed forces training or who are from a musical or dance background where they have to operate or perform in a very disciplined environment. Where they have to demonstrate personal drive and commitment in either tough relentless conditions or where the competition is fierce.

No one is saying that if you don’t play sport or are fit that you can’t be successful in business. That isn’t the point. The point is that playing sport can only be a good thing. And girls, particularly, are not doing enough of it either at primary school or secondary school level. Apparently, girls don’t like getting sweaty (by getting their heart rate up), don’t like wearing unbecoming gym kit and don’t like P.E. lessons. They do like dance, especially Zumba, boxing and team games that are fun, interactive and don’t involve an abrasive teacher shouting at them to ‘put in more effort’. Apparently, girls are more likely to take physical exercise if their mother (not their father) is the role model in the family for keeping fit and in good shape. Makes sense to me.

At the ‘Women in Sport’ conference on Thursday last week (held in the stunning Pavilion at Lords Cricket Ground, a bastion of male sporting prowess) we heard a great deal about how we business leaders, school heads, mothers and fathers must encourage the next generation of girls (and frankly boys as well) to get involved in some kind of regular physical activity at an individual and team level. To participate in the real world, to enjoy the thrill of winning a match or to feel the buzz of endorphins from taking part in a dance class or an event.

I took a number of action points away from a very thought provoking day:

1. To employ an ex-athlete at f1

2. To get my four physically active, teenage god-daughters to create a blog called ‘It’s Fun to Get Moving’ for the Under 15 year old age group.

4. To help women’s sporting federations better PR their athletes in the popular press (online and off line) through our f1 academy programme

5. To encourage more of our clients to sponsor women’s sport and take advantage of the huge opportunity that Newton Investments grabbed hold of with both hands through its sponsorship of the Women’s Boat Race.

I, for one, am fairly convinced that there is a relationship between being fit and active and playing sport, and acquiring useful life skills such as negotiation, assertiveness and putting yourself forward for promotion. But I’m not convinced that aggression, winning at all costs, gamesmanship, pandering to huge egos are attractive in any way for the business world and these are some of the characteristics that can also be associated with (often male) sporting icons. So let’s take the good, not the bad, from sport and choose to agree that, in all likelihood, a healthy body makes a healthy mind.

* photo from