Breedlove's Briefing: How Men Can Be Better Sponsors

October 7 - Stephanie Breedlove

Hi! I’m Stephanie Breedlove, Co-Founder of HomePay, Author and Angel Investor.

I absolutely adore taking an idea and giving it life in the form a business, then leading it to its full potential. Nothing is more fun. (Seriously!) I’d love for every woman who wants to start her own business to say the same thing, so here I am, mentoring millennial entrepreneurs. When I’m not working, I like to recharge and head outdoors to hike, bike, or stand up paddle board!

Is that list of business news and trending articles you’ve tagged still unread? I get it. Allow me to help. Take a couple minutes to read my summary of articles serving the most pertinent, actionable business topics. Or, take 10 minutes to read the full article, and put another brick on the foundation of your growing career.

This Week’s Must-Read:

What Men Can Do to Be Better Mentors and Sponsors to Women

Who it’s for:

All levels of an organization – CEOs, founders, HR execs, managers, anyone with a desire to advance. Pretty much everyone.

Why it’s important:

Advocating for the advancement of women at work is integral for improving financial results, gender balance, and diversity in our workplace. Yet data from Working Mother Research Institute finds that while 48% of men say they have received detailed information on career paths to P&L jobs, just 15% of women report the same. And, while 54% of men had a career discussion with a mentor or sponsor in the past 24 months, only 39% of women did. Why? Because leaders, the majority of whom are male and white, don’t adequately sponsor or mentor people who don’t look like them. There is still a lot of work to do.

Research from the Center for Talent Innovation reported that a full 71% of executives have protégés whose gender and race match their own. This means that women and minorities don’t benefit from sponsorship like their male colleagues do, and organizations lose out by not gaining the full potential of diverse talent. Recent data has also unveiled that sponsorship and advocacy make the biggest difference in career advancement.

This is not an HR issue, it’s a success issue. If companies truly want to improve their financial results, they need to do a better job of developing sponsors for diverse talent at all levels of their organization. Leaders are not taught how to become sponsors or to maximize their impact in the role. Rather than be frustrated by or blame male leaders, companies need to better enlist and equip them to excel. And men need to implement what they learn.

All of this starts with understanding what the best sponsors do, and how they do it. Here are eight steps to launch this change in your organization:

1. Identify High Potential Diverse Talent. Great sponsors purposefully look for people who bring different experiences and perspectives from their own and also have the ability to make a larger contribution.

2. Determine the Best Stretch Role. It is vital to identify high-visibility opportunities that could benefit from your protégés’ perspectives, talents, and experiences and meet core business criteria: profit and loss; strategic importance; starting something new; fixing a business problem.

3. Position the Role. Stretch assignments can be challenging, so great mentors ensure that their protégés understand that the organization values them. Many women want and appreciate this type of encouragement and may be reticent to take a challenging role without it.

4. Provide Opportunities for Development and Support. Sponsors must ensure that people in their organization invest time, expertise, resources and budget to help give protégés the skills and experiences they need to be successful.

5. Pave the Way. Sponsors have a responsibility to introduce their protégés to influential and powerful people in their organization or industry, including clients.

6. Ensure Protégés Receive Candid, Performance-Based Feedback. A McKinsey study found that women don’t get the same type of direct, candid commentary on their performance as male counterparts, and research shows that women consistently receive less feedback tied to business outcomes. Provide clear performance assessments that include specific guidance to help improve results and promote advancement.

7. Help Protégés Persist. There will always be challenges and setbacks. Sponsors must make sure criticism, mistakes, failures, or naysayers don’t derail their protégés.

8. Champion Promotions and Recognition. Sponsors advocate for raises, promotions, and recognition to deserving protégés.

Top Take-Away: Leaders who take these steps will become better, more inclusive sponsors, which will improve their own results, the careers of protégés, and the organizations where they work. This summary only scratches the surface of this action-oriented article. I encourage you to read it fully. What a great find!

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