Competitive Experiences Lead to Business Success for Women

Woman with Basketball

Several years ago Donna Lopiano, former CEO of the Women’s Sports Foundation, spoke about the difference between girls and boys picking teams in sports. Typically, the girls would pick their best friend first, then her best friend and so forth. Boys, on the other hand, chose the most skilled player for their team, then the next most skilled player and so on. Boys seem programmed to choose teammates based on skill competencies, while girls emphasized human relationships. In other words, boys inherently have the competitive wiring to create the winning team.

What, then, contributes to the emergence of the competitive and successful woman leader? What changed in her upbringing or environment to bring out that desire to win rather than to appease? Sylvia Rimm questioned more than 1,400 successful women in the United States in her report published in 1999 (“See Jane Win: The Rimm Report on How 1000 Girls Became Successful Women,” Crown Publishing). She found the most formative experience for girls who became leaders in their career fields was success in competition. Many of these women went on to say that sports taught them how to cope with the competition they were faced with in their professions. The Women’s Sports Foundation states “it is no accident that 80 percent of the female executives at Fortune 500 companies identified themselves as former “tomboys” – having played sports.”

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