Research repeatedly finds that girls and women who play sports have increased self-esteem, more positive body image, lower levels of depression and greater confidence. You can find proof of this causal connection in the boardroom, where more than 95% of all the female c-suite executives in the U.S. played organized sports in high school, college, and the professional leagues.

 Digital financial services marketer Ally lives this truth—its CMO Andrea Brimmer played soccer for her high school, on club teams, and as a soccer midfielder for Michigan State University. Under her leadership, Ally last year became a sponsor of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) and in 2022 the company was named the first official partner of the National Women’s Soccer League Players Association (NWSLPA). We sat down with the former Spartan standout about the state of play in women’s sports.

The staggering statistic about female c-suite executives’ sports backgrounds underscores the importance of young girls being able to see themselves. My time as an athlete at Michigan State was the single most formative thing that I have done for my career trajectory. It taught me leadership skills, fearlessness and how to work with teammates.

The playing field is where you learn values and the kind of action-oriented mindset that can achieve real change. When I was a freshman, for example, women’s soccer at 8 of the schools in the Big 10 conference were club teams, not varsity. We banded together with those clubs and agreed to play exhibition matches at all those schools. Then we went to their athletic boards to lobby for varsity status. That showed me the power of women helping women for the first time.

As a female business leader, you must be aware that there are eyes on you all the time and it is critically important to model the behavior you want to see in the world. This is why we’ve made a groundbreaking 50/50 pledge to equalize spending in paid advertising across women’s and men’s sports programming over the next five years.

Women’s soccer will not be successful as it ought to be if it doesn’t get its proper share of network coverage and enough eyeballs for advertisers to get behind the teams. The same is true for salaries. (The typical NWSL player still only makes $35,000 a year.) Moreover, we were deeply touched by the stories of abuse in female sports, and we felt like we had to reach out. We wanted to reinforce to the players how proud we are of them. So, we became the first brand to support the NWSLPA with funding to expand its staff, broadening access to opportunities and resources for players on and off the field.

We also align with organizations like SeeHer and initiatives like SeeHer In Sports that serve as powerful platforms for representation. They share our values. They offer fresh eyes on what we’re doing and the opportunity to work with other like-minded brands.

Game on.