What Keeps High-Achieving Women From Choosing Executive Positions. VI. Results: Themes One – Three
The influence of sports. It appears that most of the high-achieving women in this study had participated in sports in school or outside of school. This is also a generational difference since girls generally weren’t required or even encouraged to participate in sports fifty years ago. Many felt that participating in competitive sports not only gave them confidence, but also gave them a sense of both physical power and team power. This taught them many things that they carried into the corporate world.
Sample interview responses:
(DK) “I ended up excelling in sports far beyond my brothers and sisters. Yet any time I did something [my father] knocked it down. I just got better. In fact, sports empowered me. Especially running; I was racing at a very significant time in my life. My running was my positive coping strategy for challenges. When I was training to run my Boston marathon, I’d be running 20 miles and thinking, ‘I’ll show him.’ But it was tough because support is critical to an athlete’s success. But on the other hand I think, maybe this adversity or challenge is what moved me forward. Sometime I feel as if I have the power to do anything.”
(MR) “Because of athletics I learned that even a small woman could beat out a big guy. I knew I was smart. But sports taught me that I could win using my skills, my strength and my brains. That feels pretty awesome when you were always the littlest in your class and you never grew past 5 feet tall. I didn’t have to be a cute girl anymore.”
Survey response: 62% said sports had a significant impact on their lives.
Sample survey comments:
“Sports taught me discipline and perseverance.”
“I was raised in a very sports-oriented family. The concepts of teamwork, winning and often losing were good lessons. In addition, it helped with my career as years ago, women were not as accepted in leadership positions as they are today. Being able to participate in traditionally male-oriented sports conversations can create rapport in a more expedient manner.”
“Ran Track/Cross Country. Teaches you perseverance, commitment, sportsmanship, team dynamics, strength of self.”
“Sports taught me many life lessons that I believe give me a competitive advantage in the work place. In addition, they offered health benefits as well as kept me busy and out of trouble.”
“It was great for me to learn at an early age the joy of playing and competing and how to go home as friends at the end of the game.”
“Sports is my release and relief from work – sadly, it is also my addiction to the high from sports that causes my work life imbalances – my hubby would love if I could lie in bed on Saturday/Sunday mornings rather than bounding down the street listening to my Rave IPod music!!!”