In male-dominated industries - such as tech and finance - women are still significantly outnumbered. They’re noticeably lagging behind men in terms of career advancement and pay.
As Forbes Contributor and women’s advocate Margie Warrell explains, “It's well established that the economic empowerment of women isn't just good for women, it's good for everyone. Likewise, there is a growing body of evidence … showing that when more women sit at the decision-making tables, better decisions are made.”
Yet despite record numbers of women graduating college and entering the workforce, data still points to a 'leaky pipeline' - a large chasm between the number of women starting out on the professional track and how many advancing to senior positions.”
How do we fix this “leaky pipeline” and improve outcomes for women and companies in general? Two of the most effective ways to combat this problem are mentorship and sponsorship.
In a LinkedIn survey of more than 1,000 U.S.-based LinkedIn members working in finance, 11% stated that “the biggest obstacle preventing women from advancing” is lack of mentorship/sponsorship.
Although it’s great to have diversity in the types of mentors and sponsors you have, it’s also helpful for women to have a mentor that shares their gender identity. They can advise them on issues that specifically affect them based on gender.
Mentors are experts who can advise you on your goals and next career steps. They can also act as sounding boards, help you think through your problems, and offer encouragement and emotional support. There’s solid scientific and anecdotal evidence that mentorship can increase levels of engagement, professional growth, and retention among women.
● In one study by executive search and leadership consulting firm Heidrich & Struggles, women and minorities benefited the most from mentoring relationships - being the most likely to describe their mentoring relationships as “extremely important” and the most likely to “continue to have an active relationship with their primary mentor.”
● The study’s co-author, Mark Livingston, also stated that companies with mentoring programs are viewed as more attractive and have higher retention rates.
● Importantly, mentoring allows women to have access to levels of leaders that may have been harder for them to access otherwise; This opportunity can help them gain inspiration and valuable insights into how successful leaders rose through the ranks.
As described in a study by Center for Women and Business at Bentley University, “Sponsors have a voice at decision-making tables, champion their protégés for promotions and critical opportunities when they are not in the room, and provide ‘air cover’ for the less experienced individual to take risks. Sponsors may also make introductions to senior leaders, promote visibility, and provide critical feedback. In return, the protégé repays the sponsor’s investment by achieving exceptional results that reflect well on him or her.”
It’s easy to see how sponsors can be instrumental in helping women climb the ranks and get the right kind of exposure and access to opportunities.
● According to Bentley University’s research, “data suggests women with sponsors are 27 percent more likely than those without sponsors to seek a raise and 22 percent more likely to seek ‘stretch assignments’ that build their leadership experience.”
● In a Center for Talent Innovation (CTI) study, “68 percent of sponsored women report satisfaction with their pace of professional progression, compared to 57 percent of their unsponsored peers.”
● According to the same same CTI study, “85 percent of mothers (employed full-time) who have sponsors stay in the game, compared to only 58 percent of those going it alone.”
Finding Mentors and Sponsors
Here are some ways women can find the right mentors and sponsors:
● If your company doesn’t have one, consider setting up a formal mentorship program, to match women with compatible mentors.
● In two previous posts, I describe how anyone can find helpful internal and external mentors.
● Since sponsors choose you rather than the other way around, here are some tips on how to earn one.
Please share this post with your networks using hashtag #nextplaymentoring. You can email me at Charu@nextplay.ai if any of this resonated with you - and especially if you have a mentorship success story to share!