The importance of sports for women

by Jul 9, 20240 comments

The importance of sports for women

Read about the importance of sports for women as research suggests that women who have successful careers have usually played sports at more advanced levels.


It is well-researched that there is a connection between girls’ involvement in sport and their choice of STEM subjects for academic study.  Renaud Vedel, Chief-of-Staff of the French Minister for Digital Affairs and Telecommunications shared at a recent Brussels conference how he has been monitoring this in France.

To attract girls into tech careers he is actively encouraging organisations to go into schools to connect with girls in the 13-15 age range.  When I recommended this to a group of digital leaders you would have thought I had suggested they engage in the trafficking of minors. I was thinking more of boot camps, sponsoring sports teams, and generally more innocent activities.


The importance of sport for women

Data based

Research over the past decade also suggests that women who have successful careers have usually played sports to more advanced levels. When students are involved in sports they develop confidence, and leadership skills and learn about teamwork.

The link between female leadership and competitive sports has been well-documented. A 2015 study of 400 female C-suite executives conducted by espnW and EY found an undeniable correlation between athletic and business success. More than half (52%) of the C-level execs surveyed played sports at the university level, compared to 39% of women at other management levels. The same study reports that 80% of female Fortune 500 executives played competitive sports at one point in their lives.

he women on the 2017 Fortune list of Most Powerful Women also confirmed this. Of the 31 “Most Powerful Women who participated, 20 (65%) played sports competitively in either high school or college; sometimes both. The most popular sports were swimming, basketball, and tennis (5 women each).

In August 2023 Deloitte published a survey that found that playing competitive sports was a strong foundation for career success. The report titled “Impact of Sports on Women’s Professional Success,” shared that women who played competitive sports when they were young, were more likely to achive success in leadership or management roles.

Survey findings

  • 85% of women surveyed claimed that playing sport when they were young contributed to their success. This comment was stronger amongst women in leadership roles (91%) and women who earned $100,000 plus per year. (93%).
  • Female respondents who earn $100K+ p.a. and are in management or leadership roles, 69% have played competitive sports.
  • 61% of respondents agreed that girls who play sports are likely to have successful careers even if they hadn’t played sport themselves.
  • 75% of women surveyed who played competitive sports believed that girls who play competitive sports are more likely to be successful in their careers.
  • The respondents who played competitive sports acquired important skills frpm competitive sports. These include teamwork (69%) and leadership (41%). Other skills include managing stress and pressure (36%), problem-solving (35%), and effective communication (34%).

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Attracting girls into sport

So clearly there is a general interest in stopping the dropout rate of girls from school sports. However, we have to raise an eyebrow in how the English Women’s Rugby team have gone about raising awareness. They have done this by posting photos of players wearing sheer bras, basques, teddies and suspenders, smiling coquettishly on a rugby pitch. With their boots on.  As you do.

One of the main reasons that girls drop out of sports is poor body image and low body confidence, so I am not getting this campaign at all. But then I saw an explanation from a female athlete who suggested that women’s sports are so poorly sponsored and paid compared to their male counterparts that they need to get involved in this type of project to supplement their income.

The importance of sport for women

Beyond stereotypes

There is also another layer where women in sports get so much pushback.  When women use their bodies for non-sexual activities and dress against female stereotypes, they experience strong resistance. This might be when they don’t look feminine and seductive,  or appear unconnected to childbearing.  The importance of sport to women can’t be underestimated. It matters that girls (and we) get used to the idea of women using  their bodies being used for physical activity which is non-sexual. Yet sponsors still continue to offer female athletes skimpy revealing outfits for events and competitions, to make them look sexy. We saw with the Nike track and field uniforms for the US women’s team.

Worth a read: Sexism and stereotypes starts at home – 3 Plus International

When women refuse to comply with cultures that reduce women’s value to their appearance and sexuality, it’s a powerful rebellion. This means that when we sexualise the bodies of female athletes, it is an anti-feminist statement.

I really do feel as though I am travelling back in time. Again.


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Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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