What do a disproportionate number of CEOs have in common? They played sports when they were younger.
Former Whole Foods CEO Walter Robb was the captain of the Stanford Soccer Team. Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan played rugby at Brown. Even Mark Zuckerberg was a high school fencing star. But according to a series of Ernst & Young studies, it is even more common for female executives to have played a sport.
Ernst & Young surveyed 821 high-level executives and found that a whopping 90% of women sampled played sports. Among women currently holding a C-suite position, this proportion rose to 96%.
In high school, Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett-Packard, was the captain of the swim team and also played varsity lacrosse, tennis and basketball. At Princeton University she played NCAA squash and lacrosse. In her book “The Power of Many,” Whitman writes: “I liked team sports the best. When I’m pulling a business team together, I still use those basketball aphorisms I learned as a young person: ‘Let’s pass the ball around a little before game time.’ ‘Do we need man-to-man or zone defense?'”
Whitman is not the only female CEO that has found athletics fundamental to their success.
PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi played cricket in college.
Sunoco CEO Lynn Elsenhans played on Rice University’s first women’s basketball team.
Mondelez International CEO Irene Rosenfeld played four varsity sports in high school and NCAA basketball at Cornell University.
Photo by brookscl