Business Leaders Finding Top Talent Among Women Athletes

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Everyone wants to prepare to be successful, but how do we do it?

Beth Marciniak was in the first class of women’s college basketball at Purdue 41 years ago. She is now a vice president at Ernst & Young, where they have found a trend — those that play sports play well in business.

They gather at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis — the topic is integrity in sports, and for Marciniak, it’s about why Ernst & Young is making an effort to hire more women who have played.

“We were looking for the wrong thing. We’d been fishing in the wrong pond,” she said. “You look at a resume, and we were looking for this internship, that internship — athletes don’t have those internships! They’re on the field, they’re eight hours in the arena, plus trying to study. So we were actually biasing against athletes by the way we were recruiting because they didn’t look normal to us. So now we pay particular attention to what they’ve done. We’ll take an athlete any day.

The theory is that in the world of sports comes competition, which creates a focus — and that’s a good place to start when you enter the business world.

“Girls tend to drop out fo sports at puberty, at about four times the rate as boys. And yet our research shows that success in sport — especially for women — will lead to success in life,” Marciniak said. “We researched C-Suite business women — so the top levels of women in business — and found that 94 percent of them had played sports, and over half had played at the university level.”

The same principles long held true in boys sports as well — the more you compete, the more you put yourself in stressful circumstances, and that builds grit.

Jamie Spencer is an executive for the Minnesota Wild who grew up playing hockey.

“Sports is sort of the foundation for life,” he said. “If you think about it, everything you learn in a locker room is transferable as a dad, as a major component to work and everyday life. So it helps you from the standpoint of competing, and winning, and learning how to be a graceful loser, at times.”

Marciniak played basketball at Purdue four decades ago. She is now on a mission
to explain what that did for her and. by extension, what it can do for other women.

“Learning how to succeed teaches you how to succeed in business and succeed in life. What I didn’t realize when I was an athlete, I realized it in hindsight, is that you knew the recipe for success — hard work, preparation. I mean, you weren’t going to go out and play a game without having worked hard, practiced, studied,” she said. “So coming into the business world, you have confidence, because you know how to win.”

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