the future of women’s athletics

There are certain skill sets I wish I had.  True athleticism is one of them.  I was speaking with a client today who is the owner of a women’s sports team.  She was a former player and I just know she was devastating on the field and now she is “wrecking” it in business.  She is perched and in position to create a sports power house to marvel the national football league.  The acceptance of women as true athletes has certainly progressed from the days when runner, Wilma Rudolph blazed a fast trail at the 1956 Olympics winning a bronze medal and following that up in 1960 with three gold medals.  Here we are over 50 years later, women as professional athletes are still looked upon as novelty to some. Sure there are some levels of acceptance, but let me let you in on a little secret – true acceptance has a cost.

To accept women in sports is to accept women in business. Outside the United States, there are political and social philosophers that have a well-reasoned perception that American football is a metaphor for American business acumen.  The way that the game is played on the field plays out in the boardroom.

You see, it goes like this.  There is a team with many players on the roster but not all of them take the field; in business there are employees but many of them are in the silent majority.  There is a head coach who directs the team; there is a CEO who guides the company.  If the coach has several seasons of poor performance he is fired; if the CEO has several quarters of poor earnings he is fired.  There is a quarterback on the team that has to scan the field to see who is open for the ball; there is a corporate president who has to know who to delegate to; who won’t drop the ball.  There is a goal in site and that is the goal line, the mark of success.  And then there is the ultimate prize the championship where the winning team gets kudos and monetary bonuses for good performance.  In the corporate world, success is measured by performance bonuses and stock options.

For the future of women’s athletics to be bright and the stuff of legends, the playing field must be leveled.  Leveled in a way that allows women to transcend those still silent gender based biases, that women struggle to transcend in business.  The women that are playing professional football in the present are the future of women’s athletics.  Women’s athletics is a metaphor for the future of women in business.  The trail is being blazed.  For my part I can say that true athleticism is not in my “wheel house” but I am doing my part in informing and advocating for the cause, so that I (two left feet and all) can be part of the future.

Photo of Wilma Rudolph – Courtesy: Library of Congress