Friday, 26 April 2013

Executive Mums Forum: A word from your sponsor: Time for women to stop being shrinking violets at work


Victoria shared with the group some highlights from a survey that was featured in the Economist on the low numbers of women with a sponsor in their companies.  The article links lack of sponsorship to lack of female promotion to senior roles.  Specifically:

  • Survey of Senior Women: 
    • Women are 57% of new recruits to white-collar jobs, make up just 17% of exec directors and 4% of CEOs of FTSE 100.
    • 79% aspire to the top job and 91% keen to be promoted
    • 2/5 over 40 had no children; 3/5 over 40 did have children; those who quit to raise kids not included in survey
    • Only 16% of those surveyed had sponsors.
  • The article's conclusions:
    • "Women underestimate the importance of sponsorship and fail to cultivate business relationships effectively."
    • "Women need help more because they are generally more reluctant to promote themselves.  They are also less likely to build up useful networks of contacts."
  • Sponsorship—it's important! You need to seek out a sponsor.  And it's easier than you may think. I've learned from helping others in career coaching that people like to be asked for their help.  As exec mums, can we seek out sponsors?  Here are some highlights from our discussion:
    • How do we define sponsor from mentor?  
    • Victoria: I think mentors are showing you the ropes, and how to do things.  Sponsors are advocates, people in the organization saying, 'She can do that job.'
    • I know that others say, 'She doesn't work Fridays, or she has kids, so there’s no way she could do that job as it requires dinners with clients, when in fact the clients don’t want dinner either, they want lunch or tea so they can be home with their families, too!'
    • In terms of seeking a sponsor, people like to be asked for help.  Which one of us wouldn't be inclined to help if we were asked?
    • We need to be clear on what we are asking for.  
    • It pays to make sure you’re on the radar and ask for what you want.  Last year they had an open seat on the Executive Committee.  I had told my boss in the past 'I want to be on that committee,' but there wasn't a need for someone in his organisation as well as him.  But then there was a shuffle and a seat opened up and 3 of us were eligible.  In the end, they gave 2 of the 3 of us seats on the Executive Committee.  The 3rd guy asked, 'Why didn't I get it, too?'  My boss said, 'The other 2 asked me about it before and you didn't ever ask.'  I learned a big lesson when I found that out!  You have to ask!
In summary, we concluded that it’s not what the company can and can’t do for us, but being able to ask and to prioritize it for ourselves is what makes the difference.

Victoria Hall, Executive Coach
Founder of Talent Futures