Elevate Women Through Professional Sponsorship

By Kathleen M. O'Donnell, YNPNdc Volunteer - 

March is Women’s History Month and the perfect time to think about how you and the women in your life can make a mark on the world. 

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Reaching career fulfillment requires hard work, patience, and support of others. Women are now taking mentorship a step further, looking at sponsorship as the way toward a more successful and gratifying career. There is a growing crop of research and reporting that suggests professional sponsorship is key for women hoping to achieve leadership roles. 

At a recent ASAE’s Women Executives Forum event, “Elevating Women: The Value of Sponsorship in the Workplace,” Julie Kantor, President and CEO of Twomentor outlined the differences between a mentor and a sponsor. “A mentor speaks with you,” she said. “A sponsor speaks about you behind closed doors.” A sponsor, in other words, is someone who advocates on your behalf, suggesting you for opportunities and reinforcing your good ideas. Kantor believes that mentorship and sponsorship are equally important, but that having someone who champions you amongst others will help you reach the next level.

According to Kantor’s sources, women are 23% more likely to advance if they have a sponsor. Among the most important aspects of co-sponsorships are that it can and should be gender neutral and a two-way street. At her workshop, Kantor shared the following tactics for building co-sponsoring relationships. As you seek to reach the next level in your career, building a co-sponsoring relationship might be one of the most important things you do. 

Choose a person you trust and admire

Select a co-sponsor who personally and professional aligns with your values and ambitions. Make sure that person thinks highly of you, too.

Listen, understand, and look for actionable opportunities to help

Seek to understand where your co-sponsor is coming from personally and professionally. Think about how you can help them go where they want to go.

Share things about yourself

Be open about your wishes and needs. Come to your first conversation prepared with your professional goals “wish list.” Then ask for help.

Create a game plan

If you and your co-sponsor agree to embark on this relationship, start simple. Consider what connections you can make for one another or small pieces of help you can give now. Make plans to grow from there.

Assess and follow up

As you move forward, maintain accountability. Follow up with your co-sponsor routinely and evaluate how things are proceeding. Continue to open doors for one another and check in when possible.

 

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