Girls denied access to sports lack competitive skills needed for workplace success

Girls are still not being given the same access to sport in schools as boys, leaving them less likely to learn about teamwork, goal-setting, the pursuit of excellence in performance and other achievement-oriented behaviours—critical skills necessary for success in the workplace.


Athletes and leaders in sports governance, education and the corporate world were invited to a think tank on youth perceptions of, and participation in, female sport at the Women's Hockey Champions Trophy at the Olympic Park in London on Thursday.


At the think tank led by social enterprise Women Ahead, primary school age girls reported being told by sports teachers that boys are much better than them. And with only a few hours dedicated to training primary school teachers how to coach sports during the year-long PGCE teacher training course, this misinformed approach is thought to be widespread.


Moving Ahead is calling on schools, athletes, parents, sports governing bodies and larger businesses to work together to create a national programme that encourages children to engage with sport – by asking athletes to give inspirational talks in schools, giving children tickets to major fixtures, encouraging them to get involved and by providing places on athlete/student mentoring and development programmes.


The ‘big idea’ is to use sport to coach children in having a ‘growth mindset’ – the belief that with hard work and dedication you can develop and succeed, no matter where you start from in terms of talent or intelligence. The goal is to instill a love of learning and resilience in children which will lead to success in sport and business as adults.


Liz Dimmock, founder and CEO of Women Ahead and Moving Ahead said: “If we are to increase the diversity of senior leadership roles, it is critical that we develop the growth mindset leadership skills of both boys and girls. Girls cannot be left less prepared for the highly competitive workplace than boys.”


Charles Cousins, Olympic rower and Head of Youth and Sports programmes at Moving Ahead, Women Ahead’s sport and business consultancy arm said: “Sport has changed my life and opened many doors for me. I may not have gone to university if I hadn’t been involved in sport. We want to set up a programme to amplify the power that sport has to shift the current societal attitudes and behaviours towards girls and women and we’re calling on people to get involved.”


From year 4 to year 6 in primary school, the proportion of girls participating in the recommended amount of sport and physical activity drops sharply, whilst the proportion of boys increases. By age 14, only 1 in 10 girls are doing enough physical activity to benefit their health, compared with roughly twice the number of boys of the same age.


At the roundtable event, Women Ahead explored and explained the current challenges, including minimal sports news in the media, with just 7% of national coverage dedicated to female sports. The mentoring consultancy then led a discussion and debate on ways to kick-start practical actions to address these. It outlined and asked for feedback on ways to engage differently with boys, girls, families, schools and corporates to combat these challenges.


Beth Brook-Marciniak, EY Global Vice Chair has said: “Sport teaches intangible leadership skills that can’t be taught in the classroom. 94% of senior business women in the C-suite have played competitive sports.”


Charles said: “Today we found that for children to succeed in sport, they need three things. They need to want to do it for themselves, they need the support of their peers and crucially, they need their parents to get involved.


“By setting up a nationwide programme of tickets for children and their parents and teachers to attend sports fixtures, we can kick-start that passion for sport. Combined with an athlete/student mentoring programme, those children can take the skills and dedication you learn in sport and apply these to succeed in all parts of their lives.”


Women Ahead and Moving Ahead are inviting representatives from schools, corporates and governing bodies to get in touch and talk to us about how they could get involved. Contact Charles Cousins on 01189 406828 or email for more information.