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Women, Sport & Leadership #London2012 # IWD2013

Posted on March 8, 2013 at 10:05 AM

Happy International Women's Day 2013. So much to celebrate, so much to despair about. Here's an initative that pulls together some of the celebration of 2012 - specifically London2012 - with future direction.


Ernst & Young today announces announced a new programme to tap the leadership potential of elite female athletes and Olympians after their retirement from competitive sport.

Leading up to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (of which Ernst & Young member firm Ernst & Young Terco is a sponsor) the three-part programme will focus on


  •  creating a first-of-its kind Women Athletes Global Leadership Network
  •  commissioning research on the impact of women’s advancement in sport and society
  •  highlighting stories of inspiration 

Role models-  yes please. 


Research has shown that a majority of executive women say that sports helped them develop leadership skills that contributed to their professional success. Not only will this network connect women athletes who seek meaningful careers outside their sports with athletes (including Olympians) who successfully transitioned to a significant second career, it will also  connect these women athletes with the E&Y business network of top women leaders and entrepreneurs around the world, many of whom have sports in their background.

"The network will be designed to share lessons learned from career transitions, to mentor, open doors and create opportunities and to inspire the next generation to maximize their potential". Clever E&Y. 

There is so much to be learnt from the success of London2012, as that very clever think-tank, the Institute For Government explored with its recent publication : Making The Games: What government can learn from London2012. (Confession: It's coincidental, but I have a son whose name is also on that report as an intern there at the time).

I give you Beth Brooke, global vice-chair, public policy for E&Y : “ With their inherent confidence, high standards, discipline and experience in working as a team, female athletes have tremendous value for businesses like ours, governments, and NGOs around the world.” 

Who can argue with that ? It sounds like an excellent initiative from an organisation with the credibility and power to make it work. There is a more from E&Yin a white paper post London2012 that  closely examined the foundation women have established in sport, the effect they are having on business and society, and the work that remains and you can download it here.

Separately - I was lucky enough to be at London2012 as a corporate guest of BT, one of its partners - and a company with a strong and continuing involvement in sport.

What are we going to do about those  young female GB athletes who are unpaid and not publicised enough to get recognition by the plcs that could sponsor them and help them  move forward ?

This morning a BBC survey reported that four out of five British elite sportswomen believe they are underpaid and that their financial rewards are inadequate compared to their male counterparts. While over half of elite sportswomen surveyed said they do receive enough coaching support, just under 45% said their governing body did not support them equally in comparison to male colleagues.

I watched a young female rugby player speak on BBC Breakfast this morning. It's a vicious circle - many women who are amateur sportspeople don't get paid at all, their sport doesn't get coverage in the media when they do play so they have no visibility, and no plc interest in branding/sponsorship as a result....

Clever thinking required by both the media, and of course UK plc.

How does this sound - you haven't got a woman on your board and can't see it happening anytime soon ? Are you beginning to look out of touch with your customers?  Demonstrate your credentials on equality and get sponsoring - show some leadership. 

And that, of course, is why it's still board talk, really.

Categories: Women, Leadership, Sport