The Women Athlete Business Network (WABN), a joint effort organized by EY and the International Women’s Forum, is a year-long mentorship program designed to help elite athletes make the jump from a life of competition to careers after sport. Each athlete is paired with a mentor selected from the global IWF membership based on interests, career sector, personality type, short and long-term goals. The athlete drives the mentorship experience, working with and supported by their mentor as they define and work towards goals over the year.
I am part of the 2018 WABN cohort, a group of 24 athletes from 16 sports around the globe. We met last week at the IWF Global Leadership Conference.
During the two days of WABN-specific programming we heard from superstar speakers, including pioneering Olympian swimmer Donna De Varona, Canadian Olympic goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc, and author and cofounder of HGTV Susan Packard. We covered topics including the importance of taking time to be introspective and deliberate in choices, how to communicate your professional story and public presence, developing a personal “board of directors” and your support strategies, career planning and lifelong learning strategies, critically assessing company cultures, and athletic skills as leadership skills.
The thread tying topics together was clear: female athletes who have pushed the far reaches of athletic achievement have enormous skill sets and are valuable assets in the workplace, however they are hindered by a lack guidance to develop those skills in new environments and within the context of a new team.
One of the takeaway quotes that stood out from the program is, “Growth and comfort do not coexist” — Ginni Rometty (CEO, IBM). Every athlete knows that to push their physical and mental limits, and every athlete spends a majority of their time training in a position of discomfort or learning. Great athletes know how to pace themselves, motivate themselves, and drive themselves through discomfort into excellence. Athletes also know how to be bold and decisive in uncomfortable situations. Athletes have great vision: they see both the long term goal (e.g., and Olympic cycle) and the short term goals, and how to build from one to the next, adjusting training with feedback from self, teammates, and coaches.
The mental and emotional intelligence and hardiness is invaluable in complex project planning, moving into a new business sector, learning a new skill, and in team growth. Women athletes bring incredible drive, dedication, clear-sightedness, and collaborative strength to the business and professional realm.
One of the speakers, Felicia Hatcher (co-founder of Code Fever, Black Tech Week) challenged us to fill in the blanks in the sentence below to concisely identify ourselves, and define what unique skill we bring to the table, and boldly validate that expertise. I challenge you to do the same!
Hello, my name is ________. I am an expert in ________. Because ________.