In 2015, Xplore published a book about sponsorship and the role it played in supporting career success. Through interviews with 12 sponsors and their sponsees — many of them women — the book explores the various aspects of the sponsorship relationship and offers insights on how to make the most of the relationship on both sides.
With the call on men in recent years to join women in achieving gender equality in the workplace, sponsorship has become a powerful mechanism to support the transition of women into more senior roles and accelerate their career progression.
Next month we will release a revised version of this book under a new title, Got Your Back: The power of sponsorship to accelerate career success. The stories remain as they appeared in the first edition, however, some of the insights have been updated in response to recent developments and current initiatives in the diversity and inclusion space.
Through Xplore, I am happy to say we have seen many strong examples of men supporting the career aspirations of women. At the same time, we are acutely aware of the many challenges still faced by women every day in the workplace. By raising the level of consciousness around some of these challenges, we hope to see even more positive examples. Here, I would like to share a new section of the book that offers 10 actions men can take to ‘back’ the women they work with:
- Amplify women’s voices. Women are often spoken over, or if their voice is softer, they may not be heard. If you see this, can you repeat their point and ensure any ideas a woman adds are correctly attributed to them?
- Bring women into your network. Women may hesitate to attend networking events if these events are known to be attended mostly by men. Can you suggest going together and take the time to introduce them to key people at the event?
- Before an important meeting, ask yourself: ‘Is there a woman qualified to be in the room who I can bring to the meeting?’ Women may get fewer opportunities to ‘be seen’ by clients or more senior people in the organisation. Can you invite a woman to a meeting she may not have otherwise attended?
- Prompt women to speak up about their successes. Women are often reluctant to talk up their successes in meetings for fear of being seen as aggressive. If you are aware of a woman’s achievements, can you open the way in the meeting for her to speak up about these?
- Don’t assume women aren’t able to travel. The assumption of ‘family responsibilities’ may lead managers to think they are less willing to travel for their work. Can you ensure you give women the opportunity to say ‘yes’ to travel and offsite training, which will enhance their career prospects?
- Become known as a sponsor of women. Opening career doors and encouraging women to take on new projects or more challenging roles will support their career ambitions. Can you identify at least one woman (not in your team) who has the ability to take on a more challenging role?
- Become known as an advocate for gender equality. It is a fact that, even in 2017, men hold most of the powerful positions within organisations. Leaving the gender equality message to the 10% of women in senior leadership positions makes the change we need difficult to achieve. Can you be a spokesperson on why gender equality is a business imperative?
- Don’t accept pushback from other men. Ambitious men, particularly those in more junior positions, may push back if they see women receiving special consideration. As gender equality expert Michael Kimmel said, ‘Men have had the benefits of 200 years of positive discrimination’. Now is the time to truly seek ‘merit’ that shows diversity. Can you say that you have supported one woman into their next career move?
- Ensure equal pay for women. Women are paid less for the same role and level in most organisations. Have you looked into — or are you aware of — any pay inequity between genders in your team and, if so, have you brought it to the attention of those who are able to do something about it? Can you ensure the women in your organisation are not financially disadvantaged?
- Encourage promotion. Women are known to stay in the same position for longer and are more hesitant to seek promotion than their similarly talented male counterparts. When you hear of an opportunity, can you encourage a qualified woman to apply for the position and offer to be a referee?