Want to Raise a Future CEO? Have Her Play a Sport


Desirée Patno is the CEO and President of Women in the Housing and Real Estate Ecosystem (NAWRB) and Desirée Patno Enterprises, Inc. (DPE). With almost three decades specializing in the Housing and Real Estate Ecosystem, she leads her executive team’s expertise of championing women’s economic growth and independence.

In a  global online survey from a few years ago conducted by accounting firm Ernst & Young, 821 senior managers and executives from differing industry sectors were asked about their history in regards to playing sports. Forty percent of the senior managers and executives surveyed were women and, of that 40 percent, 44 percent were C-level or board-level execs.

The survey found overwhelmingly that most of the executives played sports in some capacity in their lives. It found:

  • 90 percent of the women surveyed played sports at primary and secondary school or university
  • 96 percent of the women who held a C-suite position when they were surveyed played a sport when they were younger
  • C-suite level women were more likely than other female managers to currently play a sport or to have played one in university or as a working adult
  • 72 percent of the women polled believed that playing a team sport had a positive impact on the workplace.

In its conclusion, the survey was careful to point out that playing sports as a child isn’t necessarily a direct cause leading someone to become a top executive, but implies playing sports early might be helpful in developing leadership skills and working with teams.

And although the poll is a few years old, one doesn’t need a survey to imagine how sports can teach a young girl to become more of a team player, and to develop critical thinking and communication skills. It also introduces the benefits of exercise to young women at an early age, setting them up to keep the habit as an adult which will then positively affect their mental health and stamina.

We don’t have to look far to see a relationship between leadership and sports. On our own NDILC Council, NAWRB CEO and President Desirée Patno was the only female on an all-male water polo league in high school, NDILC Member and EXIT Realty CEO Tami Bonnell currently practices martial arts, while NDILC Member and Senior Vice President and Deputy General Council at Fannie Mae Sarah Goldfrank played rugby in college.

Our staff also sees the confidence-building benefits of sports. One of our writers boosts energy through kickboxing and our graphic designer has played archery.

So, go ahead and enroll her in a team sport. She might be thanking you one day from the boardroom.

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