12 CEOs Who Prove Playing Youth Sports Leads To Greatness
These women are titans of their fields in more ways than one
Mary Schapiro, former chair of the SEC and now vice chair of the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), played field hockey in college at Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania. She’s been adamant about the role of sports in her life. “I don’t want to overemphasize the role of sports, but I think team sports have a lot to do with ending up where I have, at various points throughout my career.”
Dawn Hudson, CMO at the NFL, played squash collegiately at Dartmouth and is deeply passionate about competitive sports. She once joined five competitive sports leagues at once as she took some time off after PepsiCo. Speaking to Fortune, “I transferred my 24/7 work ethic to sports."
Meg Whitman, Hewlett-Packard CEO, played four sports in high school—swimming, lacrosse, tennis, and basketball. She then played squash and lacrosse at Princeton.
Beth Brooke-Marciniak is the global vice-chair and Ernst & Young. She’s also in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame from her days balling at Purdue University. She credits her athletic background with helping her navigate the dog-eat-dog world of corporate finance. This is what she told CNN: “We're actually starting to show that it's not just coincidence. The success in sport does have a very significant correlation to success in business."
Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo, played cricket at Madras Christian College in India. She encourages brands to treat women sports fans with parity. "Speak to women,” Nooyi has said. “Do it authentically. Give them the real sports experience they want. They will respond."
Sunoco CEO Lynn Laverty Elsenhans played on Rice’s first women’s basketball team. She’s no doubt leveraged her experiences on the basketball court to navigate, with aplomb, the male-dominated world of oil.
Mondelez CEO Irene Rosenfeld played basketball at Cornell. Before that, she played basketball, softball, hockey and volleyball in high school. According to the Independent, she used sports to hone her “ultra-competitive” streak.
Val Ackerman, the commissioner of the Big East, started for four years of D-1 basketball at Purdue University. It was the 70s, and Title IX had only recently been implemented. But the landscape changed quickly. In this interview with Forbes, she talks about the game-changing effects of Title IX. “I started out on a partial scholarship. There was only one scholarship for the whole team. I got half of it and a teammate got the other half. The next year, I got a full ride, and by the time I graduated, most of the team was getting either a full or partial scholarship.”
Katrina Adams, head of the U.S.T.A., was a two-time all-American in tennis at Northwestern. She went on to play professionally, winning 20 Women’ Tennis Association doubles titles during that span. She’s now the first African-American and former professional player to head the U.S.T.A.
Adrienne Lofton is now senior vice-president of marketing at Under Armour and played D-1 volleyball at Howard University. She’s used her fierce competitiveness to get the scrappy athletic clothing brand into the national conversation.
Kim Ng is Senior Vice-President of operations for Major League Baseball. She played softball at the University Chicago all four years she was there. And has taken that fiery attitude into the majority male world of professional baseball. She’s also poised to become the first female GM of a Major League Baseball team.
[This week GOOD Sports will be commemorating the 45th anniversary of Title IX.]
Title IX is now 45-years-old. The impact that the law has had on women’s sports is nothing short of tremendous.
It’s no secret that leaders in the boardroom and those on the field have a lot in common. Leading a team to victory through communication, determination, and hard work are all traits of both effective athletes and CEOs.
A recent study highlights this athlete-CEO collection showing more than 50 percent of female executives were once college athletes. According to the Harvard Business Review, the study by the EY Women Athletes Business Network and espnW “surveyed more than 400 female executives in five countries.” They found that “52 percent” of those top executives played sports at the “college or university level.”
For women’s sports day, GOOD’s highlighting the plethora of high-powered CEOs who owe some of their extraordinary drive, leadership, and stamina to their time competing as an undergraduate at their alma maters. Check out a few of the greats in the slideshow above.