One of the most powerful ways to retain and advance women is to create a culture of sponsorship. Women are over-mentored and under-sponsored; there’s plenty of good advice being offered, but not enough high-visibility career opportunities being given, especially compared to their male counterparts.
Part of creating a gender-balanced leadership team is effectively and actively sponsoring women. Here are 3 ways to do that.
1- Define what sponsorship looks like for your leadership team
Sponsorship is when a more senior person uses their position of power to open up doors to high-visibility assignments for those beneath them. Sponsoring is driven by the person with a seat at the table, making it crucial for those who do have a seat to be fully bought in and understand what good sponsorship looks like. A sponsor uses their seat at the table to not only advocate for the women they are helping, but they also encourage the hiring, retention and advancement of more diverse talent.
2- Create a formal sponsorship program or structure
We find that having a formal sponsorship program helps to embed and practice the behaviour of sponsoring across the organisation. It helps sponsors to get into the habit of sponsoring women and minorities, and it helps sponsees to get connected to the right sponsors. While this can be owned by an Employee Resource Group, or Diversity & Inclusion Council internally, it’s important to have senior-leadership buy-in and visibility in order for it to stick.
3- Track and measure sponsorship activity
It’s important to measure the increased percentage of women and minorities at each level of leadership before and after your program. Survey program participants, both sponsors and sponsees, regarding the efficacy of the program, overall satisfaction in their role, and desire to stay at the company.
Written by Brooke Taylor, Head of Programs and Business Excellence at The Dream Collective