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What does girls in sports have to do with good leadership?

Dr. Nicole LaVoi mesmerized Good Leadership Breakfast guests with her poise and gritty message about the important of girls and women in sports.

Intense, poised, and genuine describe the presence of Dr. Nicole LaVoi, Director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport, at the Good Leadership Breakfast this past Friday. Effective best describes her impact. Guests were mesmerized by how four specific events from 1979, when Nicole was 10 years old, shaped and motivated her life. Today, Nicole is one of the world’s foremost authorities on the importance of participation by girls and women in sports to a healthy society today. The obvious question: so why is that important?

The theme for the meeting was: How fairness motivates a higher level of leadership. Fairness is one of the four Cornerstones of Goodness, along with excellence, generosity, and positivity – important values for good leadership. Nicole shared personal and professional stories about fairness, specifically how sexism, bias, and obstruction which, kept her away from certain activities, ultimately motivated her to dismantle that same sexism, bias, and obstruction in her life’s work.

Thought leadership

My co-host for the Good Leadership Breakfast, Julie McDonough, from Bremer Bank, was a basketball player at Iowa State University – exactly the type of woman leader Nicole is advocating for today with her work.

Today, her research proves girls who participate in sports grow up to be women who have better physical and mental health, have stronger work and home life relationships, and earn salaries that are much closer to men. Three specific data points stuck with me:

  • Since legislation in the 1970s provided more access, the ratio of girls to boys in sports has increased from 1 girl to 27 boys, to 3 girls to 5 boys. That’s amazingly positive.
  • But, the media coverage for girls in sports is only 4% of the total – that’s almost impossible to imagine.
  • The most troubling trend, 20 years ago, 60% of the coaches for girls were women. Today it’s less than 20%. Speculation about “why?” has occupied my mind all weekend.

You can listen to our podcast about Nicole here.

Today, Nicole spends her time teaching, researching, and speaking in ways that motivate leaders to advocate for girls and women in sports.

So, the obvious question of the day was: What does fairness in athletics for girls and women have to do with good leadership? Nicole said it best, “What we see in the media and our workplaces shows what we value in our society.” Helping girls and women thrive in sports is core to goodness, because the definition of goodness in leadership and business is: When people thrive together, in a culture of encouragement, accountability, and positive teamwork. Men and women alike.

By ensuring girls have the same opportunity for sports, we are making progress towards opportunities for them to thrive as leaders when they become women.

Looking back on 10 years of selecting speakers for the Good Leadership Breakfast, I am grateful for the fact that our guests continue to attend when the speakers are not business people. Good Leadership is not only about profitable business – it’s about helping people thrive together. Thank you for your encouragement.

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