Sponsorship Has to Be A Part of Your Leadership Strategy For Women Leaders. Here’s Why.
Leaders, closing the gender gap isn’t about fixing the women. It’s not about working on empowering one woman at a time or saying yes to one more woman leader program.
In my 30 years of researching this and working inside the system I've found that closing the gender gap can only happen when a CEO insists on making changes to their corporate systems. This means updating the systems they have in place that are unknowingly holding women back.
That’s why I’ve spent years codifying the 14 system levers, that when working correctly, move the needle on women leadership programs. And, when those levers are broken, you can throw all the money in the world at the problem but it’s not going to change the outcome.
Too few women are getting a shot at the top jobs in an organization. One of the big reasons is they’re not getting the opportunity to step into the ‘power roles’ that lead to these top jobs and one of the reasons for this is that they don’t have influential sponsors demanding that these women get a chance at the pipeline jobs. It’s all about sponsorship but sponsorship has to be done correctly. Why?
Sponsorship, when done right, becomes a key lever of any leadership strategy.
First, let’s look at the difference between Mentoring and Sponsoring.Mentoring is largely about supporting women leaders through conversations about how to build skills. The interactions in the mentoring relationship tend to focus on offering ideas, providing suggestions and offering feedback.
Sponsorship on the other hand is about the sponsor directly using their influence and network to provide opportunities to the women leader. In effective sponsoring relationships, the sponsor will provide access to their network, they will advocate for the women leader when she is not in the room and they will champion the women leader for specific high visibility projects.
I have worked with dozens of organizations that have tried sponsorship programs, yet they quickly return to less controversial (and less effective) mentoring programs because they haven’t put the right processes in place.
Here’s how you can make this strategy work inside your organization.
- Create clarity in your organization on the difference between mentoring and sponsorship and shift your investments to sponsorship. While a mentor is someone who has knowledge and will share it, a sponsor is a person who has power and will use it.
- Identify key women leaders who could benefit from a sponsorship relationship - cast the net wide and make this an inclusive process.
- Teach sponsors on how to be effective in their role. The sponsor needs to get to know a potential protege well enough to vouch for them, especially when there is competition for a coveted role.
Are you a CEO interested in how to change your corporate system or set up a sponsorship program? Set up a time to talk to us today.
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