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  • Definition: SPONSORSHIP – a more intensive and higher-stake form of mentorship

We’re now 9 months on from Catalyst’s ground-breaking report on Sponsorship.  Sponsoring Women to Succeed (Catalyst – November 2011) argues that the only way women can reach the C-Suite is by having a high-positioned sponsor, despite 77% of women thinking they’ll get there through hard work and long hours alone. Meanwhile, earlier in 2011, the Harvard Business Review study: The Sponsor Effect: Breaking Through the Last Glass Ceiling found that sponsorship provides up to 30% more in terms of more stretch assignments, promotions and pay rises. It also discovered:

  • It’s easier for men to cultivate more sponsors than women as they (men) are less constrained by family and home – working women do at least 75% of the housework and 56% shoulder at least 75% of the childcare
  • Women benefit from, but rarely get, sponsor guidance on how to adjust their style, work-wear and executive presence to look the part of a leader – feedback men give readily to other men

We’ve worked with enough senior women to know that the latter is true. When discussing an excellent woman who displays real leadership talent, male bosses readily agree she displays all the right skills yet when pushed will say ‘her face just doesn’t fit’– and admit they will inevitably lose her…How does this attitude score on the talent waste pipeline? And, last but not least, the HBR study revealed that:

  • Valuable professional relationships between an older, more powerful male and a younger female are avoided for fear of speculation of an affair – most senior men (64%) avoid sponsoring junior women for this reason.

What does this say about men and women in the workplace? And while we’re all aware that affairs do happen occasionally, are they really the norm? Or maybe there’s a more subtle reason why women don’t get senior male sponsors.  Are men more likely to sponsor people who look like themselves?  – mainly white males. This partiality affects not just women but members of ethnic minorities as well. Do you have a view on sponsorship? Are you involved in sponsoring? Let us know at: info@whitewatergroup.eu

We’d love to hear from you!