IF you want your daughter to smash through the glass ceiling of corporate leadership, the best place to start may be on the sports field.

In the lead up to International Women's Day, Australian team collaboration company Atlassian and the AFL, have launched "The Imagination Gap", new research exploring the link between involvement in team sports as a child and future success. 

The survey of 1000+ respondents revealed the following key results:

● 95% of respondents who played team sports agreed that involvement in team sports helped develop key skills for future

● 80% say that team sports contributed to them building a strong work ethic

● 78% of Australians suggested team sports helped them build a competitive edge in the workplace

● 89% of Australians believed team sports enhanced collaboration and team work

● 86% of Australians believed team sports enhanced communication and social skills

● While half of men (49 per cent) say sporting coaches are their most common role model, only 25% women said the same

● 82% of those who were Senior Managers confirmed they played team sports at a young age

The survey reports earlier drop-out of women in team sport when compared to men (only 34% of females continue playing team sports into their adult years vs 50% of males).

It represents a potential disadvantage for Australian female leadership, with respondents suggesting they would have further developed key leadership skills if they had continued participation.

Giants AFLW players Alicia Eva and Jessica Dal Pos pose for photographs with head of women's football Nicole Livingstone
Giants AFLW players Alicia Eva and Jessica Dal Pos pose for photographs with head of women's football Nicole Livingstone

Aubrey Blanche, Head of Global Diversity & Inclusion at Atlassian stresses the importance of team participation.

"Team environments are valuable because they create a safe space where girls can stretch themselves and grow among their peers, where they can build confidence and resilience. Skills which we know are vital for success in the workplace." 

"Encouraging girls to participate in teams - whether it's sport, scouts, debating or whatever else piques their
imagination - will help develop these critical skills and foster our next generation of leaders." 

Head of Women's Football at the AFL, Nicole Livingstone said the survey reflected the experience of many girls and women in sports.

"We know that participating in sport delivers very strong personal, social and community benefits, and that if girls can see role models at the elite and leadership level, they are more likely to believe they, too, can make it," she said.

"The existence of our national league shows this in practice - our participation numbers at the grassroots level have soared since the AFLW arrived.

"Females made up 30 per cent of the total participant figure in 2017. We also saw a 76 per cent increase in female teams across the country after the inaugural season."

The 'imagination gap' that Australian women face in their early years is emphasised in the report, revealing while half of all men surveyed (49 per cent) said sporting coaches were their most common role model, only 25 per cent of women said  the same.

Parents were the most popular role model for women (51 per cent) followed by teachers (38 per cent).