Give girls a sport­ing chance and they will lead the way

Many women in se­nior po­si­tions credit their suc­cess to com­pet­i­tive games when younger

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business Comment - LAURA CORDINGLEY

In 2020, there are just seven fe­male chief ex­ec­u­tives of FTSE 100 com­pa­nies – barely out­num­ber­ing men called Peter. Mean­while, ac­cord­ing to Sport Eng­land data, girls are much less likely to take part in phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity than boys. As girls get older, in­volve­ment in sport falls even fur­ther – with par­tic­u­lar drop off points as they move to se­condary school and hit the age of 14.

On first glance you could be for­given for fail­ing to draw a con­nec­tion be­tween those two facts, but the “Sport for Suc­cess” re­search con­ducted by the or­gan­i­sa­tion Women in Sport sug­gests ex­actly that. Women in se­nior po­si­tions of em­ploy­ment credit play­ing sport in their youth with de­vel­op­ing skills to sup­port a suc­cess­ful ca­reer.

“Sport for Suc­cess” found that women who played sport reg­u­larly were more likely to be in se­nior man­age­ment po­si­tion.

Around 45pc of women who play sport are in man­age­ment roles, whereas less than a third of women who don’t play sport are man­agers.

Com­pet­i­tive sport and the train­ing re­quired to per­form at your best bring a unique pres­sure. To my mind, it is as close as the feeling I get when walk­ing into an im­por­tant meet­ing or giv­ing a key speech.

Be­fore mov­ing into my pro­fes­sional ca­reer, I played net­ball for Eng­land. So much of that ex­pe­ri­ence now in­flu­ences how I pre­pare for im­por­tant mo­ments, and how I deal with prob­lems and is­sues that arise. I know that I am where I am be­cause of what sport gave me.

At Chance to Shine, through our part­ner­ship with Eng­land and Wales Cricket Board, pro­vid­ing equal ac­cess to the game of cricket has been a fun­da­men­tal part of the work we have done for the last 15 years. We’re im­mensely proud of the fact that of the 5m chil­dren we have helped to play cricket, nearly half are girls. In 2019, we built a Se­condary School Girls Pro­gramme that aims to sup­port teenage girls to play cricket and, specif­i­cally, to de­velop their lead­er­ship skills.

The young lead­ers were trained to de­liver cricket coach­ing ses­sions and were then sup­ported to set up af­ter-school or lunchtime clubs for girls in younger year groups to come along.

The lead­ers had to mar­ket their clubs, Some opted for tra­di­tional posters, while oth­ers tried a first foray into dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing, us­ing Snapchat. The idea was to give them real own­er­ship of the clubs and do­ing that was a real learn­ing curve for us. The girls got pas­sion­ate about what they were do­ing be­cause they had con­trol of it and could shape it.

Sup­port from NatWest al­lowed us to com­mis­sion an in­de­pen­dent assess­ment of the pro­gramme, con­ducted by the Cen­tre for Sport,

Phys­i­cal Ed­u­ca­tion & Ac­tiv­ity Re­search (Spear) at Can­ter­bury Christ Church Univer­sity.

The re­search showed that the per­cent­age of girls who iden­ti­fied with key lead­er­ship traits grew as a re­sult, Those who felt con­fi­dence rose from 39pc to 45pc, re­silience from 50pc to 57pc, cre­ativ­ity from 31pc to 39pc and adapt­abil­ity from 44pc to 56pc. These traits are as ap­pli­ca­ble on the cricket pitch as they are in the board­room.

Ask­ing these girls to stand up in front of their class­mates and lead cricket ses­sions was a rare chance for them to take on in­creased in­di­vid­ual re­spon­si­bil­i­ties that re­flect what it is like to take charge in a work set­ting. Many of the schools we ap­proached were so keen to take part in the pro­gramme be­cause they recog­nised the value for their pupils. Our re­search shows that the girls wanted these op­por­tu­ni­ties and it mo­ti­vated them dur­ing their train­ing. They rel­ished this chance to lead, and they wanted to have a pos­i­tive im­pact on their peers.

It was also in­cred­i­bly promis­ing that the girls said they un­der­stood how the

Girls rel­ished this chance to lead, and they wanted to have a pos­i­tive im­pact on their peers

sport was help­ing them. To re­ally change be­hav­iours, you have to change mind­set. The fact that the girls could ap­pre­ci­ate why play­ing cricket was valu­able will hope­fully help them to build a pos­i­tive and long-last­ing re­la­tion­ship with sport.

We were look­ing for­ward to build­ing on the in­sight we gained in this sum­mer’s pro­gramme. How­ever, like ev­ery­one else across the world, Covid-19 has dis­rupted our best laid plans. We have had to can­cel this year’s pro­gramme but we are work­ing hard to come back in the new school year. We know the de­mand in schools is high and we know how valu­able the ex­pe­ri­ence is for the girls we work with.

What we have learnt will be valu­able for Chance to Shine. We hope it can be of use for other or­gan­i­sa­tions that are seek­ing to use sport to help girls de­velop into women who just might take the helm of a FTSE 100 com­pany one day.

Women who played sport, such as cricket or net­ball, reg­u­larly were more likely to be in a se­nior man­age­ment role, ac­cord­ing to re­search by Women in Sport

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