From Captain to CEO: How Title IX Has Made Us More Successful in Business|
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
Today marks the 40th anniversary of one of the most influential pieces of legislation passed in the 20th century. Although it was passed long before we were born, Title IX of the Education Act of 1972 opened the doors to opportunities that all of us experienced in our upbringing. The most notable of those opportunities is of course sports, which interestingly, is not even mentioned anywhere in those 37 words that repaved history for women. Title IX was originally created in hope of providing more opportunities for women in post-secondary education, giving them better access to higher-paying jobs. As Title IX evolved into flagship legislation for women in athletics, however, that initial goal was not lost, but rather, reinforced.
Prior to Title IX, only one in 27 girls played sports. Now, one in two play.
There is no denying the paradigm shift in athletics caused by Title IX, but the more powerful takeaway from this legislation may be the impact it has had on women breaking the glass ceiling and soaring to higher ranks in their career. According to a survey done by Oppenheimer Funds in 2002, 82% of female business executives played organized sports after elementary school. In From the Locker Room to the Boardroom: A Survey on Sports in the Lives of Women Business Executives, the Oppenheimer Funds surveyed 327 senior women executives, and the findings showcase why women in sports win in business.
Eighty-six percent of female business leaders surveyed said that sports increased their self-discipline. An athlete learns quickly that their success, and that of their team’s, is determined by how hard they’re willing to push themselves. Often, it’s the extra reps, summer training and disciplined nutrition that elevates them from good to great come game time. Naturally, this self-discipline translates to an athletes encore performance: their business career. They are trained in working both hard and smart, as decided by themselves.
Eighty-one percent of those surveyed said that sports helped them become better team players. One of the most valuable characteristics of any employee is their ability to work well with others towards a common goal. Those who have played sports from an early age learn firsthand that their success is dependent on trusting their teammate and supporting each other along the way. This emphasis on teamwork develops the more competitive their athletic career becomes. Female athletes hold tightly to this value of teamwork, which is an obvious contributor to their successful professional careers.
Sixty-nine percent of respondents said that athletics helped them develop leadership sills, contributing to their professional success. Any member of a sports team knows, especially at the varsity and collegiate levels, that every teammate plays a special role and is a leader in their own way, even if they don’t wear the ‘C’ on gameday. Leaders are born out of sports, as athletes learn that their team’s success depends on individuals stepping up and enrolling one another in a common goal. Additionally, athletes at higher levels begin to experience the pressure and expectations that are put on Division I players for example. And thus, leadership isn’t something that just happens on the court or field, it is something that is evaluated in the community and classroom too-an early lesson in the multi-faceted aspects of leadership in business.
Sixty-eight percent of senior female executives noted that their athletic experiences prepared them to cope with failure. Nearly no athlete goes through their career without experiencing a team loss or crappy game performance, learning quickly that what matters is how they respond. Do they shut down causing more losses and mistakes? Or do they work harder, fight through discouragement, and find a way to succeed. Often this is a lesson that takes individuals a very long time to learn before “getting it”, but athletes are groomed from the start to take failure, respond and learn from it, as their success is dependent on this mental skillset
Fifty-nine percent of respondents reported that playing sports has given them a competitive edge over others. This statistic is likely due to the inherent “skill set” they learned before even stepping into the business world. Also, athletes are infused with intense competitive fire, or they wouldn’t be there in the first place. Athletes want to win and will do what it takes to get there-no matter the personal sacrifice it takes. This trait leads to women in the workforce who will battle their way to the top, beating out those who said she wouldn’t or couldn’t.
As the world of sports celebrates the victories of Title IX today, the women of business have a reason to rejoice, too.