From athlete to C-suite
1972 was a milestone year in American history. It was a year that saw women making headway on courts, fields and other arenas throughout schools. Title IX was passed as part of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibiting sex discrimination in any school or any other education program that receives funding from the federal government.
While Title IX encompasses more than giving women the right to participate in sports programs at schools, this important step prohibiting sex discrimination in primary, secondary and higher education has undoubtedly helped open doors for female athletes.
Women’s sports programs have helped athletes launch their careers, even beyond athletics. In 2015, espnW and Ernst &Young found that 80 percent of Fortune 500 female executives have played sports in their earlier years. And that same study revealed that more than half of female C-suite leaders competed in college sports.
Recognizing the legislation’s recent 50th anniversary, Kellogg held a special panel discussion at the Global Hub, featuring alumnae who played collegiate sports, then earned an MBA and went on to business careers at the highest levels. Speakers included Tamara Bohlig ’97 MBA, ’91 board director at Axos Financial, Aminah Charles ’17 MBA, head of sports marketing at Beats by Dre and Kate Smith ’98 MBA, assistant athletic director at Northwestern University. Danielle Bell ’07 MBA, ’99, assistant professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School moderated the panel discussion. This was part of a broader programming effort through Northwestern University commemorating the passage of Title IX.
Each former athlete shared part of her personal journey — drawing comparisons between workplace dynamics functioning much like that of a team — and acknowledged how Kellogg helped advance their careers. Here is some of the advice they shared:
Tamara Bohlig ’97 MBA, Full-Time MBA Program
“Be grateful for the things you do have, and ask yourself ‘what can I take from that experience—being a student athlete—and leverage in the business world?’ Leave whatever place better than when you got there.”
Aminah Charles ’17 MBA, Full-Time MBA Program
“You can't accomplish anything great by yourself, so make sure you surround yourself with good people. Find someone who's going to be your truth-teller and find someone who's going to be your storyteller. Your truth-teller is the one that's always going to it to you straight, and your storyteller is your cheerleader—that's the person who's always going to lift you up and spread the gospel about you.”
Kate Smith ’98 MBA, Full-Time MBA Program
“Stay true to who you are, and don't get caught up in trying to fit into some mold or some expectation of an organization. Find a place that will accept you for who you are where you can bring your strengths. You will be better for it; the world will be better for it.”