Game on: Sports can help level the playing field for women in business

(BPT) - In the wake of an electrifying sports season with record-breaking viewership for the WNBA and landmark victories for women athletes globally, Deloitte released "The Impact of Sports on Women's Professional Success," new research that looks at the interplay between athletic experience and women's professional accomplishments.

According to the survey, 85% of women who played sports say the skills they developed were important to success in their professional careers. With the women's matches of the U.S. Open and the Women's World Cup shattering viewership records, it's an ideal time to take a look at the role sports can play in the development and success of women in business.

The intersection of sports and professional success

Sports can be a great training ground for the future. The research found that 91% of surveyed women in leadership roles attribute their success in business to their sports backgrounds.

The women surveyed said the skills they've developed playing sports include teamwork (69%) and leadership (41%), followed by managing stress and pressure (36%), problem-solving abilities (35%) and effective communication (34%).

And these skills aren't just helping with home team victories, they're setting women up to win in the workplace. The perceptions around the power of sports show an impressive 61% of all respondents agree that girls who engage in sports are likely to have successful careers.

Many roads lead to the top

Of course, playing sports is just one of many pathways where young girls can follow their interests and cultivate critical life skills. For instance, robotics or coding clubs may help sharpen abilities around logical reasoning and problem-solving, volunteer work can foster empathy, social awareness and the importance of giving back to one's community, and the debate team and drama club may help with collaboration, confidence and public speaking.

The common thread, though, is the ability to gain the transferrable skills that are valued by many employers today.

The next generation of women leaders

The right environment to grow and develop new hobbies and skills could be integral to meeting current and future goals. When it comes to sports, clubs and activities, several factors, like an encouraging coach or motivational team captain, can make all the difference in one's ability to excel.

Similarly, an empathetic and forward-thinking employer who champions women in the workplace can significantly impact opportunities for professional growth and development. An employer that values, empowers and intentionally invests in women professionals can help to create winning teams, leaders and companies.

Deloitte has fostered many firsts for women at work, starting in 1935 when Jennie Palen became the first woman to hold a managerial role at a lead accounting firm. She paved the way for all women professionals, as well as Deloitte's first woman chair in 2003 and the first woman CEO of any Big Four organization in 2015. These are not just historical footnotes; they reflect a culture that is deeply committed to nurturing the professional growth of women.

"Deloitte has a longstanding history of supporting the advancement of women and we are proud of the invaluable contributions of the many women leaders in our organization. While progress has been made advancing women in society, we know there is more work to be done. Supporting the development of girls' leadership skills throughout their youth will help prepare them to be our next generation of leaders," said Jason Girzadas, CEO, Deloitte US.

Flourishing on and in your field

The data paints a vivid picture: sports can serve as a catalyst for women's career success. And to increase the chances of winning the long game, a workplace that champions its women can help keep the momentum going and provide the environment to thrive.

The next time you walk past a school soccer field or see a flyer for the next coding competition, remember that these are more than just extracurriculars. They are foundational experiences, helping to shape the character and skill sets of the next generation of women leaders.

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