Ernst & Young to Launch Leadership Network for Elite Female Athletes to Address Unmet Global Need

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Organization announces new program to connect women athletes to women leaders around the world

Ernst & Young has announced a new program to tap the leadership potential of elite female athletes and Olympians after their retirement from competitive sport. Leading up to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, of which Ernst & Young member firm Ernst & Young Terco is a sponsor, the three-part program will focus on 1) creating a first-of-its kind Women Athletes Global Leadership Network, 2) commissioning research on the impact of women’s advancement in sport and society, and 3) highlighting stories of inspiration.

Research has shown that a majority of executive women say that sports helped them develop leadership skills that contributed to their professional success. The Women Athletes Global Leadership Network will connect women athletes who seek meaningful careers outside their sports with retired elite athletes, including women Olympians, who successfully transitioned to a significant second career. Ernst & Young will also connect these women athletes with its robust business network of top women leaders and entrepreneurs around the world, many of whom have sports in their background. The network will be designed to share lessons learned from career transitions, to mentor, open doors and create opportunities and to inspire the next generation to maximize their potential.

To guide the overall program, Ernst & Young has commissioned new research about the connections between sports and leadership and the effect that women’s access to and participation in sports can have on education, health and global economic development.

In addition, looking toward the Rio 2016 Games, Ernst & Young will use multi-media platforms to publicize the stories of Olympic alumni and top women leaders who see sport as foundational to their success. These stories of inspiration, and the upcoming research, will focus on the impact that women have had on sport and society with a goal of further opening the playing field and advancing gender equity around the world.

“Ernst & Young has seen the power of diversity and inclusion and we want to build a better working world by expanding opportunities for women leaders. With their inherent confidence, high standards, discipline and experience in working as a team, female athletes have tremendous value for businesses like ours, governments, and NGOs around the world,” says Beth Brooke, Global Vice Chair, Public Policy, for the Ernst & Young organization, a Title IX scholarship recipient, and one of “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women” according to Forbes. “We have a long history of convening networks, helping female entrepreneurs scale their companies, and driving the global dialogue around the advancement of women. The impact of women at the London games was historic and we want to continue this momentum by helping transform elite female athletes into exceptional leaders.”

Brooke will discuss Ernst & Young’s new program at the 2013 Laureus World Sports Awards’ “Women in Sport” press conference on Monday, March 11, at 11 a.m. BRT in Rio de Janeiro. The Laureus World Sports Awards is the premier global sports awards program honoring the greatest sportsmen and women across all sports each year, according to Laureus.

Leveraging London Games Momentum
Ernst & Young was inspired to create the network to build on the momentum at the London 2012 Olympic Games, where women represented 44% of competitors. In comparison, in the 1908 Games, when just 37 women competed, men outnumbered women 53 to one. For the first time in the history of the modern Games, in 2012, women were able to compete in all sports in the Olympic program, and all countries participating in the Olympic Games had women athletes in their delegations including, for the first time, Saudi Arabia, Brunei and Qatar.

Women’s advancement in sports has implications beyond the Olympic Games. Research shows a direct correlation between girls’ participation in sports and higher education and employment. In fact, a 2010 Study by Betsey Stevenson, former Chief Economist of the U.S. Department of Labor, found that Title IX accounted for a 20% increase in women's education and for about a 40% rise in employment for women ages 25 to 34. At the 2012 London Games, Ernst & Young issued a white paper that more closely examined the foundation women have established in sport, the effect they are having on business and society, and the work that remains, titled, High achievers: recognizing the power of women to spur business and economic growth.

“With rewarding post-sports careers, elite women athletes – high achievers, natural leaders and team players – can make a huge impact on the next generation, their communities and the world around them. However, the transition from the field or the gym after retirement from sport can be mystifying,” noted Donna de Varona, Olympic Champion and advisor to Ernst & Young’s new program. “Too often, women athletes either reach the pinnacle of their careers at a very young age or stay in elite sports so long that they miss out on entry into the job market. They need guidance, connections and support to write the next chapter in their lives. They need mentors who have been through their journey. Ernst & Young’s program will make a huge difference in their professional lives after sport and magnify their contributions and value.”

Participants lending support to Ernst & Young’s program include leaders such as: Nawal El Moutawakel, Olympic Champion and Vice President, International Olympic Committee Member; Anita DeFrantz, Olympic Medalist and International Olympic Committee Member, Chair of Women in Sports Commission; Deedee Corradini, President, International Women’s Forum; Donna de Varona, Olympic Champion and former President, Women’s Sports Foundation; and Adriana Behar, Olympic Medalist and Brazil National Olympic Committee Member.

Women Athletes Global Leadership Network
In addition, founding members of the Network are currently being identified and will represent the five primary Olympic regions: Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania. These founding members will then be asked to help identify women from their respective regions to join the network, with a goal of steady growth heading into the Rio 2016 Games.

The Women Athletes Global Leadership Network will comprise:

  •     Women leaders, including female Olympic alumni and other elite athletes, who have taken what they learned in sport and applied it to a successful professional career
  •     Olympians who are actively pursuing meaningful new careers
  •     Women who believe in the power of mentorship and want to help and inspire other women and girls to channel their strengths and potential

“By combining the power of sport with the power of women leaders around the world, the impact is exponential,” Brooke added.

Today’s announcement builds on Ernst & Young’s long-standing support of women, which includes another unique program focused on female entrepreneurs. The Ernst & Young Entrepreneurial Winning Women™ program is an annual competition and executive leadership program that identifies a select group of high-potential women entrepreneurs whose businesses show real potential to scale — and then helps them do it. It continues to expand around the world, with programs launching or in development across every continent, including the US, Brazil, Canada, Indonesia and Australia. For more information on how Ernst & Young supports women’s advancement and gender equity around the world, visit

About Ernst & Young
Ernst & Young is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. Worldwide, our 167,000 people are united by our shared values and an unwavering commitment to quality. We make a difference by helping our people, our clients and our wider communities achieve their potential.

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Ernst & Young refers to the global organization of member firms of Ernst & Young Global Limited, each of which is a separate legal entity. Ernst & Young Global Limited, a UK company limited by guarantee, does not provide services to clients.

This news release has been issued by Ernst & Young LLP, a member firm of Ernst & Young Global Limited that provides professional services to clients in the US.

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