Today, the number of girls playing high school sports is approaching 3 million, up from 300,000 in 1970.
Male CEOs often have backgrounds in competitive sports.
A study out in February by mutual fund company Oppenheimer finds that women are following the same path: 82 percent of executive businesswomen played organized sports after elementary school, vs. 61 percent of adult women in a separate Internet survey of the general population.
Oppenheimer also found that one in six adult women identify themselves as athletic, but that jumps to nearly half among women who make more than $75,000 a year. The results advance a 1997 survey by the Women's Sports Foundation that found that 80 percent of female executives in Fortune 500 companies identified themselves as ''competitive'' and ''tomboys'' in their youth.
Successful executive women interviewed came from a range of backgrounds. What they have in common has been a drive to succeed going back to childhood, a drive in the classroom as well as the field of competition.
They say their experiences in sports helped them develop skills, strategies and habits that contribute to success in business: