by: Rukkaiya Pachisa, Doha
Sports traditionally teaches about teamwork, goal-setting, the pursuit of excellence in performance and other achievement-oriented behavior —critical skills necessary for success in the workplace. In an economic environment where the quality of our lives is now dependent on two-income families, women cannot be less prepared for the highly competitive workplace than men. It is no accident that 80% of the female executives at Fortune 500 companies identified themselves as former sports women, having played sports.
Women are bringing new strengths to business and organizations that are based on their skills in group process, preference for cooperation models and sensitivity to human needs. Sport is one of the most important socio-cultural learning environments in our society. Eventually, as women rise to executive positions, the organizational models of business will reflect more female characteristics and become androgynous. However, women who do not know the written and unwritten rules of sport are at a disadvantage in understanding business models of organization based on sports functional theory.
Playing sports teaches us that being “good at a position” is a function of the will to achieve and working on the basic skills required for that position. Thus, sportsmen grow up thinking that they can achieve anything they commit themselves to achieving and, they in real life, apply for jobs for which we women, may think them underqualified. It is simply that they have been trained to believe that they “can” meet a new challenge of a new position and can learn by doing. Women, on the other hand, who are not into sports believe that advancing to a new position requires certification, classroom training, degrees, or something tangible that says, “I am qualified,” in addition to being confident that they can meet the demands of a new position. If they have not played sports, they have not had as much experience with the trial-and-error method of learning new skills and positions and are less likely to be as confident as their male counterparts about trying something new.
In sports and in organizations, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Sport gives you experience so you learn to win graciously and accept defeat without blowing the experience out of proportion. You learn to separate the outcome of a game or your performance in one game from your worth as a person. When trying new things errors are expected, acknowledged, and fixed immediately rather than dwelling on them or taking the criticism of errors personally. This is critically an important lesson for women workforce.
In sports and in organizations, pressure, deadlines, and competition are commonplace. Sport gives players the experience of dealing with these realities and learning to enjoy and conquer their challenges. When there are only two seconds left on the clock, your team is one point down, and you go up for that jump shot, you learn what pressure, deadlines and competition is all about and how they can be perceived as exhilarating and fun rather than scary and distasteful. The bottom line is that most organizations want to hire people who enjoy and excel in competitive environments. Women who are not into sports will not learn how to handle these challenges.
Participation in sports teaches players all about the work ethics that hard work, repetition, and constant practice are the keys to successful performance. Athletes know that no matter how tired they are, they can tap into a reservoir of stamina, strength, and good thinking—even under the most difficult of circumstances - and continue to compete successfully.
Ultimately, in sports and in business, being exceptional is leaving no detail unattended to. Every athlete has a precise checklist of details involved in every skill from throwing a curve ball to shooting a jump shot. The more you study your opponent and prepare for a game, the more successful you are. Great players are students of their game, and great students are always learning.
About the author:
Rukkaiya Pachisa is a practicing Chartered Accountant in Doha, Qatar. She was the Chairperson of the Doha Chapter (2019-2020), an elected MC Member & Head of Finance, Indian Sports Center under the aegis of Embassy of India, Doha, Qatar.