If You're Not Sponsoring Another Woman, You're Hurting Your Own Career
I was negotiating a speaking fee with a women's bar association. I named my price and was told the organization couldn't pay it because it was the price they'd paid the previous year to the first woman U.S. Supreme Court justice.
At the top of the next workshop session, one of our students opened with, "I'm mad at Sandra Day O'Connor."
"For heaven's sakes, why?"
"Because she anchored the fee for women speakers way too low."
It was at that point that I really "got" the concept of rising tides raising all ships. This is particularly true of women who compare their compensation to their female friends rather than to their male colleagues.
We were all circling the drain of the wage gap! When we asked for more for ourselves, we were simultaneously chipping away at the wage, leadership and income gaps for all women.
Phew! What a relief! So many women had said they didn't want to be greedy or compete or hurt their relationships by negotiating with their superiors. Here was the most excellent reason we women had for seeking higher pay and higher positions - we were making things better for everyone.
That's why our failure to sponsor, refer business to and support other women hurts our own careers. Despite all our "leaning in" we haven't moved the needle on pay, leadership or income for the past decade. No one is going to do it for us. We won't be rewarded if we don't ask for rewards and no one is going to advance the cause of women other than women.
Here's an excerpt from a Sylvia Ann Hewlett article at the New York Times on the nature and value of sponsorhip.
To get ahead, women need to acquire a sponsor — a powerfully positioned champion — to help them escape the “marzipan layer,” that sticky middle slice of management where so many driven and talented women languish.
Our two-year study, which sampled some 12,000 men and women in white-collar occupations across the United States and Britain, shows how sponsorship — unlike mentorship, its weaker cousin — makes a measurable difference in career progress.
Mentorship, let’s be clear, is a relatively loose relationship. Mentors act as a sounding board or a shoulder to cry on, offering advice as needed and support and guidance as requested; they expect very little in return. Sponsors, in contrast, are much more vested in their protégés, offering guidance and critical feedback because they believe in them.
Sponsors advocate on their protégés’ behalf, connecting them to important players and assignments. In doing so, they make themselves look good. And precisely because sponsors go out on a limb, they expect stellar performance and loyalty.
A sponsor can lean in on a woman’s behalf, apprising others of her exceptional performance and keeping her on the fast track. With such a person — male or female — in her corner, our data shows, a woman is more likely to ask for a big opportunity, to seek a raise and to be satisfied with her rate of advancement.
Go. Do. Prosper.