Mary Baldwin Alum Describes College Athletics as Preparation for Life

January 15, 2015

ClaudiaWoodySunday evening Claudia Brind-Woody ’77, vice president and managing director of IBM Global Intellectual Property Licensing, returned to Mary Baldwin University to speak about how her experiences as a student athlete taught her many of the lessons that have made her successful in her business career.

“Having the opportunity to hear Claudia Brind-Woody speak was fantastic,” said Amanda Johnson ’15. “As an athlete and a business woman, her advice really spoke to me. My favorite part of her presentation was the statistics and facts that she showed us because it is mind-blowing how many top business women were athletes.”

Brind-Woody not only explained the importance of athletics to her individual development as a professional, but she also cited a recent study by EY Women Athletes Business Network and ESPNW to show that she is not the only business woman who has benefited from a background in sports. The research report, Making the Connection: Women, Sport, and Leadership, found that:

  • The majority (52 percent) of C-suite women (CEO, CFO, or COO) played sports at the university level, compared to 39 percent of women at other management levels.
  • Just 3 percent of C-suite women have not played any sports, compared with 9 percent of women at other management levels.
  • Seventy-two percent of the women surveyed agreed that people who engage in sports at some level participate more effectively within business teams than those who have not, because of their experience working in a team environment.

Brind-Woody explained the similarities between athletics and the business world. For example, business professionals and athletes take risks and have their successes and failures publicly presented. Participation in sports builds characteristics that are vital to success later in life. To this end, one of the student athletes asked if being described as competitive was a positive attribute. In her response to the question, Brind-Woody again cited the study: 75 percent of respondents said that competitiveness is an asset to their leadership style.

Brind-Woody is in the top row, third from right.
Brind-Woody is in the top row, third from right.

“Claudia was inspirational and extremely empowering to me as well as the other student athletes, coaches, and athletics staff. I truly enjoyed learning how basketball has impacted her past and current career decisions and how I might apply soccer to my future aspirations and opportunities,” said Bailey McWilliams, a freshman soccer player.

Brind-Woody also addressed the topic of communication, explaining the difference between “richer” and “poorer” sources of communication. Her key point was to “match the medium to the message.” For example, richer media, such as in-person conversations, should be used in situations that are not routine, such as explaining how someone’s job responsibilities will change. Other routine types of messages, such as a reminder about a scheduled meeting, can be communicated through text message or email. This part of her discussion seemed to break down a generational barrier to help the student athletes improve their communication skills.

“Claudia’s words for the student athletes and the athletic staff were relevant, thought-provoking, and full of direction for each one of us to be a better athlete, coach, or athletic administrator,” said Athletic Director Sharon Spalding. “We are fortunate to have a world-renowned speaker and high-level executive — and former Mary Baldwin Fighting Squirrel — come and spend time with us. She took time out of her busy schedule to really listen to us and find out our struggles. Now the real work comes in what each of us does with what we heard.”

Claudia Brind-Woody earned a JD at Georgia State University, an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and an MS from the University of Tennessee, where she worked as assistant athletics director and assistant basketball coach of the Lady Vols under head coach Pat Summitt. In 2011, she was included in GO Magazine’s list of “100 Women We Love.” Brind-Woody was also honored as one of the inaugural inductees into the Mary Baldwin Athletics Hall of Fame, recognizing her accomplishments in basketball and equestrian competition.