One of the many avenues being developed to fostering a new generation of women leaders, is supporting former top female sports people enter the business world. Against this backdrop, EY and the International Women’s Forum launched the Women Athletes Business Network three years ago, which brings together 25 top performing women with mentors to fast track their entry into business leadership. Applications for the 2017 edition are currently open to aspiring female athletes.
According to a study by McKinsey & Company, gender disparity in the work place comes with a hefty price tag – estimated to cost the globe $28 trillion in foregone GDP by 2025. Women tend to, on average, be underrepresented across the entire corporate ladder, with low representation in particular visible in strategic decision making business positions. The lack of female leaders is, found another report, from Grant Thornton, costing UK organisations billions.
In recent years, the consulting industry too has been taking an interest in reducing disparity levels within its own sector. One of the advocates for improved diversity in the labour market is EY, with 231,000 in 150+ countries one of the largest professional services firms of the world.
Women Athletes Business Network
Three years ago the Big Four teamed up with the International Women’s Forum (IWF) to set up the Women Athletes Business Network (WABN) programme. The initiative aims at increasing the number of women in leadership positions, as well support women athletes’ transition from leading performances in sports to commanding performances in business.
The programme brings together 25 top performing female athletes, seeking to diversify their skill-sets to include business performance, with 25 mentors from the business community. According to the organisers, the programme builds on research that shows that sport is elemental in developing leadership and team building skills. Elite sports people are described as people who, by nature, are "high achievers, influential leaders and team players – ones who can make an impact, not only on the next generation of women in sport, but also within their communities and the world around them.”
EY and IWF have opened the applications process for the 2017 edition of the WABN Programme, which runs to 2 November. The one year programme aims at developing the potential of women outside of sport, by carefully selecting a mentor for the 25 participants from the IWF’s network of 6,400 senior women executives in 34 countries.
Beth Brooke-Marciniak, EY Global Vice Chair of Public Policy, Leader of the Women Athletes Business Network and one of UK's 100 most influential LGBT executives, says, “Our research has shown that a background in sport can help accelerate a woman’s professional career. The drive, discipline and dedication of elite female athletes, in particular, make them a unique leadership talent pool. By pairing these 25 inspiring women with top female executives, we want to nurture their leadership skills for extraordinary success not only in sport but also in business.”
Teresa Weintraub, President of the International Women’s Forum, adds, "Female athletes spend the entirety of their sporting career pushing themselves and their teammates towards excellence. In most respects they already are strong leaders. The EY WABN Mentoring Program builds on those strengths and provides the opportunity to be mentored, challenged, inspired and equipped to rise to the highest levels of leadership.”