LinkedIn Discussion: Mentors, Sponsorships, and Obsessing about the Glass Ceiling (.pdf; links)


I’m spending a lot of my time volunteering and connecting with people on LinkedIn and other websites.  I find this a rewarding use of my recent free-time (despite the extra weight I’ve gained).  Below is a recent discussion with a fellow Dress For Success volunteer on the DFS LinkedIn Group about women and mentorship.  If you have any insight, please do share.  


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DFS Group-member’s response to Forbes.com article:


Corporate America only “pays” for those that have positions that are at a higher level, which to me, seems terribly unfair. We all contribute to the company’s success and since we are the right hand to the Sr. Executive that is creating the decisions, we should absolutely be mentored and have that person guide us in either how we can help them in a better way and ourselves for the future in that company. 

I CAN say I have had one or two wonderful bosses that have taken the time to mentor me the best they can, in the time small period alloted and I have asked them to. But it was not a initiative. So, I ask anyone and everyone that I work with, “What is it that I can do better, what have they done in their careers to get them where they are, etc.”

So, I would like to know how different a sponsor would be , as these people also advocated for me? Thanks so much! 



Our response to fellow DFS member:


Hi –
  I’ll look for the recent study published regarding the effects of sponsorships vs. mentorships in a professional woman’s trajectory and send it to you (or post it).**
  Unfortunately, whether anyone “pays” to facilitate these relationships or not, it’s really up to ourselves to create opportunities and become visible to the organization in which we belong.
  I, personally, have had professional mentors in my industry which happened “organically”, as well as limited experience in a mentorship formally arranged by my previous firm.  
  Obviously, there are many factors and variables that would affect the outcome of each relationship.  To me, a professional “mentor” or confidante or even an inspiring leader to observe is better than none at all.  My experience suggests that genuine bonds easily form when there is natural curiosity by the mentee, natural leadership abilities in the mentor and some common ground and chemistry between the two.  Surprisingly, some inspiration have come from those in leadership positions with whom I had very limited interaction – they led via behavior and motivation.  And, their work and character are obvious when observing their behavior and interactions with others over a long span of time.  I’ve gotten close to a few senior level professionals my industry by virtue of having worked in the same field and city for ten years.  These are informal “mentors” on whom I can rely to serve as ‘soundingboards’ for myself when I have specific questions, and they have consistently provided me with honest and good advice.  
  As with any relationship, a lot of it is trial and error.  I’ve been disappointed, betrayed and let down by professionals I’ve trusted.  No one goes to work to make ‘friends’.  
  The key is to cultivate and care for these relationships as they are precious [I still struggle with effectively demonstrating this].  It’s quite generous for others to take time to provide you with insight it has taken them years of experience to acquire.  Their time shouldn’t be taken lightly.  Furthermore, it helps when you’re naturally inquisitive about the person as opposed to framing the question as a request for specific steps to take to reach the top.  I find there is no answer to the question, “how can I reach the stars?”.  To each their own.  However, regular conversations with a trust professional in your field (not working in your office, preferably) can provide you with an extra set of eyes to your specific situation, thus allowing you to have a wider perspective before making big career decisions.
  I’m naturally curious about people.  I love reading biographies.  And, I’m the same when I meet people who I find fascinating – whether their “higher up the chain” or nowhere near a chain.


I read an excellent quote yesterday paraphrasing Cornell West’s comment.  I like it because it reminds me not to lose sight of the bigger things in life and who besides ourselves to consider:


Stop obsessing over only the glass ceiling & remember people in the basement & on the seventh floor.
(- Cornell West)

Catalyst Study Shows Sponsorship is Key to Women’s Success

NEW YORK (August 17, 2011)—For women especially, it takes more than meeting expectations to get noticed in today’s workplace. Female employees who work hard and play by the rules are often overlooked when it comes to plum assignments and big promotions. According to Sponsoring Women to Success, the latest in Catalyst’s groundbreaking series of reports on women and sponsorship, effective sponsorship is critical to accelerating a woman’s career—from getting her noticed by senior-level executives to being considered for her company’s top jobs.
Key findings of this report include:
Sponsorship matters, especially to women. “Good sponsors can supercharge a woman’s career by providing her with access to essential networks, bringing her achievements to the attention of senior-level executives, and recommending her for key assignments,” said Ilene H. Lang, President & CEO of Catalyst. “Effective sponsors also provide career coaching and guidance that enable protégés to make broader and more strategic contributions to their organizations.”
Previous research shows that women can be penalized for exhibiting self-promoting behavior considered acceptable in men but unappealing in women. Because good sponsors recognize and reward talented employees by speaking up on their behalf, sponsorship can help high-performing female employees subvert this double bind.
Sponsorship benefits sponsors, protégés and organizations. A protégé’s career is clearly enhanced by a good relationship with a sponsor. But sponsors benefit too—by establishing reputations as discerning leaders invested in talent sustainability, as powerful contributors to their organization’s success, by learning from employees at every level, and gaining leadership skills that can further enhance their own careers. Sponsors also reported a sense of satisfaction from actively supporting the careers of their most promising employees. Sponsorship benefits companies by creating more effective and committed teams and fostering a “pay it forward” mentality that makes employees feel valued and supported.
Senior-level executives must recognize sponsorship as a necessary component of good leadership. Executives should understand what good sponsorship entails and how to use their influence to advance high-performing employees’ careers, be vocal advocates for their protégés, and build a foundation of support that will ensure their protégés’ continued success in the organization. Executives can become sponsors by paying attention to high-performing employees at all levels of an organization, including those who may often go unnoticed.
There is no “silver bullet” for attracting the attention of a high-level sponsor. Sponsoring Women to Success reveals that sponsorship is earned. To attract sponsors, employees need to make their skills, strengths, and work known to colleagues as well as senior leaders. They must build reputations as flexible, collegial professionals who are consistently committed to their own career development.
Smart companies create environments where sponsorship thrives. Companies must explicitly and transparently communicate an expectation of sponsorship to their executives. “At Catalyst, we believe that sponsorship is something good leaders do,” noted Ms. Lang. “Companies that educate their employees about sponsorship, link it to talent management systems, and make it a hallmark of organizational strategy will reap tremendous rewards.”
Successful sponsorship is a win/win/win. Everyone wins when employees make their talents visible to executives, when executives truly invest in high-performing talent, and when companies foster an expectation and an environment in which sponsorship can flourish:
  • High-performing employees, particularly women, gain critical, career-accelerating experiences and advancement opportunities.
  • Sponsors receive valuable feedback from protégés and build reputational capital as leaders committed to building a robust pipeline of talent.
  • Organizations increase employee engagement, retention, talent development and the strength of the talent pipeline.
A companion tool to this report, Fostering Sponsorship Success Among High Performers and Leaders, offers additional information on how high-performing employees can attract sponsorship, and how senior leaders can become effective sponsors.
American Express Company and Deloitte LLP were the Executive Circle Sponsors of Sponsoring Women to Success.
ABOUT CATALYST
Founded in 1962, Catalyst is the leading nonprofit membership organization expanding opportunities for women and business. With offices in the United States, Canada, and Europe, and more than 400 preeminent corporations as members, Catalyst is the trusted resource for research, information, and advice about women at work. Catalyst annually honors exemplary organizational initiatives that promote women’s advancement with the Catalyst Award.”

Additional References & Resources:
Link to:  Do You Have A Mentor/Sponsor? discussion on Linked In.
Link to:  Forbes article
Link to:  Catalyst published study:  effects of mentorship vs. sponsorship **
Link to:  Resources for Leadership article
Link to:  Center for Creative Leadership 


source:  http://www.catalyst.org/press-release/190/catalyst-study-shows-sponsorship-is-key-to-womens-success