Four Keys for CPA Firms Pairing Sponsors with Protégées

business man and woman reading news in magazineLet the help go both ways.

By Ida O. Abbott
Sponsoring Women: What Men Need to Know

Most leaders engage in sponsorship and have been sponsored themselves, so the nature of a sponsor-protégée relationship should be familiar.

MORE ON SPONSORING WOMEN FOR LEADERSHIP: 3 Ways to Wreck a Woman’s Career | Don’t Let Gossip Interfere | Women Fight ‘Kids First’ Perception | 3 Changes for Men to Make | 4 Firm Benefits of Sponsoring Women as Leaders

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Generally speaking, you sponsor women just as you do men. You may have to make a little more effort up front. And you might need to adapt to the impact of motherhood and other sex-related differences. But the strategies and tactics that sponsors use to help women move ahead are not much different than those for men.
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3 Ways to Wreck a Woman’s Career

Metallic rusty wrecking ball on chain shattering an old brick wallBeware misunderstandings about work relationships.

By Ida O. Abbott
Sponsoring Women: What Men Need to Know

We know that even when a relationship between a woman and a man is strictly business-focused, others may not see it that way. Here are three thorny issues to watch for and quell.

MORE ON SPONSORING WOMEN FOR LEADERSHIP: Don’t Let Gossip Interfere | 4 Ways to Help Women Seek Power | Women Judged on Performance, Men on Potential | 3 Ways Women Benefit When Seen as Leaders | Sponsor or Mentor? | 4 Firm Benefits of Sponsoring Women as Leaders | Being the Best Means Including Women

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1. Gossip and rumors

Relationships in the workplace are frequently the subject of rumors, and close relationships between senior men and junior women are tasty fodder for the gossip mill. Because sponsorship between a man and woman is not as common as sponsorship between two men, it is more noticeable and subjects the man and woman to greater scrutiny.
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Don’t Let Gossip Interfere

Three coworkers whispering about another passing byKeep things professional and there'll be no reason to worry.

By Ida O. Abbott
Sponsoring Women: What Men Need to Know

A close work relationship between a man and a woman can generate sexual tensions in one or both of them.

MORE ON SPONSORING WOMEN FOR LEADERSHIP: 4 Ways to Help Women Seek Power | 4 Reasons Women Say No to Leadership | Fix Gender Bias at Your Firm | Sponsor or Mentor? | 4 Firm Benefits of Sponsoring Women as Leaders | Being the Best Means Including Women

When the man is older and powerful and the woman is young and ambitious, the potential for complications is even greater.
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4 Ways to Help Women Seek Power

Business team including young womanAnd why some women resist using networks.

By Ida O. Abbott
Sponsoring Women: What Men Need to Know

Women tend to have a limited appreciation of how their networks can help them get ahead professionally. Developing strong business networks is critical for career advancement. Because a leader operates through others, her value and effectiveness are largely tied to the power of her network.

MORE ON SPONSORING WOMEN FOR LEADERSHIP: 3 Ways Women Benefit When Seen as Leaders | 4 Firm Benefits of Sponsoring Women as Leaders

Yet women are reluctant to cultivate potential sponsors through their networks, while men willingly use patronage and networks to open doors and provide opportunities that cannot be accessed through normal channels. Men attribute their promotions to personal connections as a matter of pride, not embarrassment, because it means that influential people see them as leaders and reward them accordingly. As a result, men benefit from the political processes that go on all around them while women lose out.
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4 Reasons Women Say No to Leadership

Serious businesswoman holding up hand in stop signalPLUS: Politics vs. performance.

By Ida O. Abbott
Sponsoring Women: What Men Need to Know

Many women are uncomfortable calling attention to their achievements and ambitions, dislike politics, have difficulty asking others for a career boost or underestimate the importance of powerful backers. That makes it harder for potential sponsors to recognize how worthy these women are of their support.

MORE ON SPONSORING WOMEN FOR LEADERSHIP: Women Fight ‘Kids First’ Perception | Women Judged on Performance, Men on Potential | 3 Ways Women Benefit When Seen as Leaders | Being the Best Means Including Women

Some women hurt their own chances for sponsorship by failing to let sponsors know what they want and why they merit it. Sponsors are drawn to star performers who display confidence and a drive to succeed. Where a man might insist he is the right person for a job and asks to be promoted, a woman who is equally or even better qualified may downplay her qualifications for the job. Instead of aggressively pursuing promotions and opportunities, she waits to be asked, and then, when asked, may turn the offer down. Why?
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Women Fight ‘Kids First’ Perception

Mother and daughterBias persists that work will suffer.

By Ida O. Abbott
Sponsoring Women: What Men Need to Know

One pattern of gender bias is exhibiting “maternal wall” bias, which leads people to believe that women with children are unable to meet the demands of leadership.

MORE ON SPONSORING WOMEN FOR LEADERSHIP: Women Judged on Performance, Men on Potential | Fix Gender Bias at Your Firm | Sponsor or Mentor? | Being the Best Means Including Women

People assume that women with children are less committed to their work.
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Women Judged on Performance, Men on Potential

Businessman and businesswoman standing back to backIt's the 21st century and the standards still differ.

By Ida O. Abbott
Sponsoring Women: What Men Need to Know

Common patterns of gender bias include holding women to higher standards than men and expressing contradictory expectations (“double binds”) for women.

MORE ON SPONSORING WOMEN FOR LEADERSHIP: Fix Gender Bias at Your Firm | 3 Changes for Men to Make | 3 Ways Women Benefit When Seen as Leaders | Sponsor or Mentor? | 4 Firm Benefits of Sponsoring Women as Leaders | Being the Best Means Including Women

Different standards: People expect more of women than of men and they hold women to higher standards. This sets the bar higher for women who aspire to leadership and makes it more difficult for them to prove their value to the organization, even though research shows that women outperform men in 17 of 67 critical leadership skills, while men outperform women in only four.
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