One area, less spoken of I would like to highlight which helps women tremendously in advancing their career is sponsorship. To me a Sponsor is a Mentor who advocates for their mentee or protégé. By advocating I mean going beyond simply providing good advice or ideas, to actually talking about their protégé to others favourably. A Sponsor also introduces their protégé to the right people who can help progress their career, and actively puts their name forward to take on stretch assignments to build their skills and profile.
As a woman having a Sponsor is incredibly beneficial. The benefits to the protégé are obvious; support, advice, access to more opportunities. As a female Sponsor having a mentee for whom you advocate is equally as powerful. Either way you win! Be a Sponsor or have a Sponsor.
Research suggests that men who sponsor women benefit too, especially very senior men such as CEO’s, or those on the executive team or in roles of leadership and influence. They are generally more engaged, and are better leaders when they actively sponsor women. One reason is that the more senior you are in an organisation, the less ‘truth’ you hear. By sponsoring a high performing woman, senior men get to understand what is going on in their organisation from a perspective that is different to theirs. Diverse ways of thinking and view points only strengthen their ability to lead and motivate others. The mentor/mentee relationship is such that the protégé can be more honest and candid than perhaps a direct report who may feel they have to play the political game. In addition, the Sponsor has one or more people who are loyal to them, who supports them, and they become more connected to the needs of junior colleagues.
As a woman being a sponsor for someone from a different background to yourself provides a lens by which to view the organisation and its operations differently. Sponsors learn often as much from their protégés as the protégé does from the sponsor. Not only do Sponsors get the ‘feel good’ factor by advocating for someone else and helping develop their careers, they also learn and are seen positively by their organisation.
I therefore encourage all senior women and men to sponsor high performing women in your organisations as a strategy to help retain, develop & grow women into leadership roles. As a sponsor it’s important to select someone who will likely be successful and who demonstrates the traits you want in your organisation. You need to be confident they can deliver and will do well – as this is a direct reflection on you, and you want others to follow your lead.
With International Women’s Day coming up on Friday, this could be the impetus to think if you don’t currently sponsor a woman – is this something you could proactively do? Imagine if everyone in a senior leadership role proactively sponsored one capable ambitious women inside their organisation where would Australia be in 2-4 years time?
#genderequality #internationalwomensday #womenhelpwomen #sponsorwomen