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Inspiration from an Xplore Associate
Liane McGrath

If I reflect on my career and a particular time when sponsorship would have benefited me, it was when my organisation was merging with two other companies. I was close to my Managing Director and he was competing for the CEO position of the parent company, however he was unsuccessful and another of the merging company MD’s got the position. As I was allied with my MD and I didn’t have a relationship with the new CEO, I lost my sponsor when my manager left the business. And my career progression was impacted. Therefore I understand the importance of having sponsors within your business.

I do see it as more important for women to forge sponsorship relationships, as men seem to be more comfortable building relationships with senior people. Women generally don’t have the same level of confidence; they underplay their abilities, don’t see themselves as other people see them and don’t credit themselves with the success they achieve. A sponsor can help them to see this and reach their potential. At the Xplore book launch for Unexpected Women – Sponsorship Journeys on 12 February, Diana Ryall was in conversation with Gordon Cairns about the power of sponsorship. Gordon’s perspective was very insightful and reinforced my experience that women can have a lot of self-doubt, which can inhibit their success. Gordon said he often see’s women doubting if they are good enough, experienced enough, ready enough or smart enough to take on a bigger role. He feels that it is a big part of the sponsor’s role to open their eyes and push them to take a leap of faith.

Gordon also encourages women to just get out there and ask for sponsorship. I’d always thought that a prior relationship was a prerequisite for asking for sponsorship, but I’ve changed my mind after hearing Gordon’s perspective. I think if you can put together a business case of why someone should sponsor you and you demonstrate behaviours that support this, then there’s no reason why you can’t ask someone (preferably male) whom you admire, respect and who is well-connected, to be your sponsor. You can even ask your mentor to help you build the business case to present to your potential sponsor. I would definitely encourage you to identify a few potential sponsors to approach in case one person is not available/willing.  If you end up with more than one then that’s fantastic. – You just have to be brave and ask!

You can see some more of Gordon’s insightful soundbites from the event over on the Xplore Twitter page.

In terms of an organisation’s commitment to the sponsorship of women, I think it is a strategic imperative to have men sponsoring talented women if having women at senior levels of the business is a true objective.

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