I throw like a girl.

And damn proud of it.

Almost anything I learned about being successful in business came from what I learned about being an athlete. A girl athlete.

Soccer, fast-pitch, cross country. You name it. I did it.

Today, I got to reflect on my own learnings playing sports as a kid (credit to my late dad who signed me up as the only 4-year-old girl for the soccer team in the 80s and, after throwing baseballs at my head before I could tie my shoes, enlisted me to be 1 of 2 girls on the boys Little League team).

I was inspired thanks to a lunch hosted by the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce with this AMAZING panel of women sports teams’ owners and executives, including leaders with the Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago Bulls, Chicago Sky, CBL clients Laura Ricketts (Go Cubs!) and Julie Giese, with whom I am SO honored to work with as she brings NASCAR’s 2nd Chicago Street Race to town this summer.

Here’s a few takeaways from the conversation between these ridiculously talented, ambitious and thoughtful leaders:

  1. It’s ok to be the first, but don’t be the last. Make sure you take time to mentor and pay it forward so more women can rise to the top. Actively look for talent and identify how you can help them gain traction.
  2. Diversity of perspective and diversity of networks: Being different (aka have 2 X chromosomes in a male-dominated industry) means you see things differently and can spot talent beyond the traditional pool. It means you can find value, efficiencies and innovations that others might not spot, and you can bring new people to the arena to amplify that value.
  3. Capitalism, not philanthropy. Women’s sports isn’t a charity. It’s real business, attracting serious investors with massive growth potential. Dudes, take note.
  4. Demand a seat at the table. In this era of massive live-work-play sports stadium developments, it’s time for women’s sports to be equally considered a legitimate target for public-private investments and incentives, just like the dudes have benefitted from for decades.

This article was written by President Natalie Bauer Luce. Natalie is a seasoned communications and public affairs strategist with extensive experience in government, law, media, politics and business.