By Caroline Tung
After 33 years successfully climbing the corporate ladder as an international lawyer, Annette Wargon now spends some of her time teaching young professional sportswomen the secrets to success.
As a mentor with the Minerva Network, a not-for-profit organisation set up to mentor professional sportswomen, Ms Wargon says athletes still don’t receive the same career support enjoyed by young professionals entering the corporate world.
“In elite sports, professional athletes move relatively quickly from high school sports star to professional athlete with limited, if any, guidance or direction ‘off the field’,” she says.
“Unless they quickly become stars in their field in a very short space of time, and at a relatively young age, they gain no recognition or reward along the way.
“The window of opportunity to succeed is very narrow with significant pressure to succeed or fail – nothing really in between.”
Ms Wargon says sportspeople often find themselves in ‘the deep end’ early in their career, and have very little time to make and learn from mistakes.
In comparison, young business professionals benefit not only from gaining knowledge and skills during their academic training, but in most organisations junior staff are put through training programs and are mentored by more senior managers.
Ms Wargon says the Minerva Network is a unique program to help young Australian women build more confidence and work towards long-term success on and off the field.
“The Minerva mentors come armed with considerable experience, within their own business fields of expertise, in mentoring and sponsoring young individuals,” she explains.
“To my knowledge, there is no similar program offered in Australia.”
Main challenges women athletes face include commercial issues such as negotiating a commercial contract, understanding financial planning, and developing a personal brand.
Crisis management, across the board gender pay gaps, and investing in a long-term career are also key concerns.
Minerva mentors work proactively to make introductions, establish a network and offer tailored workshops on topics such as personal branding and how to establish a media profile.
“By offering experienced sounding boards and advisors, and the types of personal training usually offered to young people by corporations, Minerva helps young women athletes become stronger and more confident,” Ms Wargon says.