17 Ways to Follow Through on Sponsorship

Younger businesswoman and older businessman working togetherAn effective sponsorship requires work from both parties.

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

When you sponsor a woman, there are many steps that you can take to ensure that the relationship is productive and achieves its objectives.

MORE ON SPONSORING WOMEN FOR LEADERSHIP: Can You Afford to Be a Sponsor? | How Protégées Can Help Sponsors | Beware Misunderstandings About Work Relationships | Fears of Innuendo, Gossip Impede Development | Women Must See Politics As Leadership | Why Some Women Resist Using Networks | Bias Persists Against Women with Children | Standards for Women Still Differ | Thanks for the Advice, But I’d Really Prefer a Promotion

Here are some tips for getting off to a strong start and following through effectively, especially by focusing on career opportunities and promoting your protégée to others.
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Can You Afford to Be a Sponsor?

Man pointing at computer screen while woman works, both smilingThe cost is in political capital.

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

Most sponsorship occurs informally, without any structured or programmatic context. Informal sponsor-protégée relationships usually start in one of three ways.

The most common way is when a senior manager or partner

  • identifies someone as a star performer,
  • believes that she has what it takes to succeed and
  • wants to make that success happen.

MORE ON SPONSORING WOMEN FOR LEADERSHIP: How Protégées Can Help Sponsors | Beware Misunderstandings About Work Relationships | Women Must See Politics As Leadership | Bias Persists Against Women with Children | 5 Ways Women Get Shoved Aside | Why Men Don’t See Women as Leaders | Thanks for the Advice, But I’d Really Prefer a Promotion | 18 Ways to Boost Your Protégée | Why CPA Firms Need More Women | Protect Your Protégée from Flextime Saboteurs | Use Others to Promote Your Protégée | 8 Ways Sponsors Can Highlight Opportunities

The sponsor recognizes her talent and potential while they work together or when he observes her at work and is impressed by her ability. As the two work together their relationship grows.
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How Protégées Can Help Sponsors

Road with painted arrows heading two directions4 requirements when starting from scratch.

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: Beware Misunderstandings About Work Relationships | Women Must See Politics As Leadership | Bias Persists Against Women with Children | 5 Ways Women Get Shoved Aside | Thanks for the Advice, But I’d Really Prefer a Promotion | Women Leaders Provide 6 Market Advantages | Why CPA Firms Need More Women

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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Beware Misunderstandings About Work Relationships

Shoe-only view of man and woman at office, back to back3 ways to derail sponsorships.

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: Fears of Innuendo, Gossip Impede Development | Women Must See Politics As Leadership | Why Some Women Resist Using Networks | Bias Persists Against Women with Children | Standards for Women Still Differ

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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Fears of Innuendo, Gossip Impede Development

Overhead view of male and female business partners analyzing statistical annual report represented in graphs on digital tablet.Keep close relationships from getting too close.

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.

When the man is older and powerful and the woman is young and ambitious, the potential for complications is even greater.

MORE ON SPONSORING WOMEN FOR LEADERSHIP: Women Must See Politics As Leadership | Why Some Women Resist Using Networks | 5 Ways Women Get Shoved Aside | 18 Ways to Boost Your Protégée | Women Leaders Provide 6 Market Advantages | Why CPA Firms Need More Women | Beyond Mentoring to Sponsorship

Even when the relationship is strictly business focused, it can be the subject of rumors, gossip and speculation among coworkers, and it can arouse feelings of jealousy and resentment in the sponsor’s wife.

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Women Must See Politics As Leadership

Businesswoman sitting on table while talking with four coworkersBONUS CHECKLIST: 4 reasons women decline opportunities.

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. This makes it harder for potential sponsors to recognize how worthy these women are of their support.

MORE ON SPONSORING WOMEN FOR LEADERSHIP: Why Some Women Resist Using Networks | 5 Ways Women Get Shoved Aside | Why Men Don’t See Women as Leaders | Thanks for the Advice, But I’d Really Prefer a Promotion | Women Leaders Provide 6 Market Advantages | Protect Your Protégée from Flextime Saboteurs | 8 Ways Sponsors Can Highlight Opportunities

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 ask 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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Why Some Women Resist Using Networks

Businesswoman in elevatorBONUS CHECKLIST: 4 ways sponsors can help women seek power.

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: Bias Persists Against Women with Children | Standards for Women Still Differ | 5 Ways Women Get Shoved Aside | Why Men Don’t See Women as Leaders | Thanks for the Advice, But I’d Really Prefer a Promotion | 18 Ways to Boost Your Protégée | Women Leaders Provide 6 Market Advantages | Why CPA Firms Need More Women | Beyond Mentoring to Sponsorship | Protect Your Protégée from Flextime Saboteurs | How to Keep Sex from Derailing a Sponsorship | ‘Soft Skills’ Advice Needed, Too | Use Others to Promote Your Protégée | 8 Ways Sponsors Can Highlight Opportunities | 17 Ways Sponsors Can Help Protégées | 3 Ways to Open a Sponsorship Conversation | What Sponsors Need from Protégées | 3 Ways to Derail Sponsorships

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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Bias Persists Against Women with Children

Businesswoman talking to baby on floorWomen with families still face perception that kids always come first, at cost of work.

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.

People assume that women with children are less committed to their work.

MORE ON SPONSORING WOMEN FOR LEADERSHIP: Standards for Women Still Differ | 5 Ways Women Get Shoved Aside | Why Men Don’t See Women as Leaders | Thanks for the Advice, But I’d Really Prefer a Promotion | 18 Ways to Boost Your Protégée | Women Leaders Provide 6 Market Advantages | Why CPA Firms Need More Women | Beyond Mentoring to Sponsorship

This bias arises from the stereotypes that create conflicting expectations for mothers and career women: Good mothers should always be available to their children, while good business people should always be available to their clients.

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Standards for Women Still Differ

Businesswoman in front of staircase with obstacles including fire and a sharkMen are judged on potential; for women, it's strictly performance.

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.

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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People also judge women and men differently: women on their performance and men on their potential.

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5 Ways Women Get Shoved Aside

Businesspeople in hallwayIt's 2015 and gender bias is still a problem. But you can fix it at your firm.

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

Gender bias reflects entrenched beliefs and assumptions about women based on stereotypes about appropriate roles and behaviors for women.

Unconscious thoughts about the kinds of work women are and are not suited for, especially if they are mothers, remove highly qualified women from consideration for leadership opportunities and positions.

MORE ON SPONSORING WOMEN FOR LEADERSHIP: Why Men Don’t See Women as Leaders | Thanks for the Advice, But I’d Really Prefer a Promotion | 18 Ways to Boost Your Protégée | Women Leaders Provide 6 Market Advantages | Why CPA Firms Need More WomenBeyond Mentoring to Sponsorship | Protect Your Protégée from Flextime Saboteurs | How to Keep Sex from Derailing a Sponsorship | ‘Soft Skills’ Advice Needed, Too | Use Others to Promote Your Protégée | 8 Ways Sponsors Can Highlight Opportunities | 17 Ways Sponsors Can Help Protégées | 3 Ways to Open a Sponsorship Conversation

In the past, working women suffered overt discrimination and explicit bias. They were told outright they were not “fit” for certain jobs, were too emotional and unreliable to be given responsible roles, and were taking the place of men who needed to support families. Sometimes the bias was ostensibly intended to “protect” women and occasionally it was hostile. But it was out in the open and women understood the barriers they faced.
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Why Men Don’t See Women as Leaders

Woman and man holding same documentAnd 3 ways men can change.

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

Let’s assume a powerful man works with two junior colleagues, a man and a woman, who are both equally talented, motivated and superbly skilled performers. According to what we know from research and experience, that powerful man is more likely to sponsor the man than the woman.

MORE ON SPONSORING WOMEN FOR LEADERSHIP: Thanks for the Advice, But I’d Really Prefer a Promotion | 18 Ways to Boost Your Protégée | Women Leaders  |  Provide 6 Market Advantages | Why CPA Firms Need More Women | Beyond Mentoring to Sponsorship | Protect Your Protégée from Flextime Saboteurs | How to Keep Sex from Derailing a Sponsorship | ‘Soft Skills’ Advice Needed, Too | Use Others to Promote Your Protégée | 8 Ways Sponsors Can Highlight Opportunities | 17 Ways Sponsors Can Help Protégées | 3 Ways to Open a Sponsorship Conversation | What Sponsors Need from Protégées | 3 Ways to Derail Sponsorships | Keep Close Relationships From Getting Too Close | 4 Reasons Women Hold Themselves Back | 4 Ways Sponsors Can Help Women Seek Power | Bias About Women with Families Lingers | Judged on Performance, Not Potential? Must Be a Woman | Gender Bias Still a Problem | Why Women Are Overlooked (And How to Fix It)

Why is that? What factors go into a sponsor’s calculation about where to place his most active support and for whom to expend his political capital? And why don’t more women come across as “leadership material,” even when their talents and abilities should make them great candidates? I have some answers.

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Thanks for the Advice, But I’d Really Prefer a Promotion

Young businesswoman and businessman talking in a hallwayBONUS LISTS: 3 ways women benefit when they are seen as leaders. Statistics on women in management ranks. And 4 extra obstacles for women of color.

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

The benefits of sponsorship are indisputable. Having a highly placed sponsor is a distinct career advantage, and when competing for top positions it can be a critical differentiator.

MORE ON SPONSORING WOMEN FOR LEADERSHIP: 18 Ways to Boost Your Protégée | Women Leaders Provide 6 Market Advantages | Why CPA Firms Need More Women | Beyond Mentoring to Sponsorship | Protect Your Protégée from Flextime Saboteurs | How to Keep Sex from Derailing a Sponsorship | Use Others to Promote Your Protégée | 8 Ways Sponsors Can Highlight Opportunities | 17 Ways Sponsors Can Help Protégées | 3 Ways to Open a Sponsorship Conversation | What Sponsors Need from Protégées | 3 Ways to Derail Sponsorships | 4 Reasons Women Hold Themselves Back | 4 Ways Sponsors Can Help Women Seek Power | Bias About Women with Families Lingers | Judged on Performance, Not Potential? Must Be a Woman | Why Women Are Overlooked (And How to Fix It) | 3 Ways Men Are Favored in the Workplace

Protégées gain career-enhancing opportunities that others do not get, such as:

  1. receive more chances to excel,
  2. are accepted into influential networks,
  3. gain visibility as rising stars and
  4. enjoy heightened prestige through the intervention of a powerful backer.

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18 Ways to Boost Your Protégée

Plus the difference between a mentor and a sponsor.

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

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The practice of mentorship is well known and well established in today’s workplace. A mentor is someone who helps a more junior person learn, develop and achieve her professional goals.

Mentoring is the process by which the mentor and mentee work together to identify and help the mentee move toward those goals. But sponsorship is intended specifically to promote career advancement.

MORE ON SPONSORING WOMEN FOR LEADERSHIP: Women Leaders Provide 6 Market Advantages | Why CPA Firms Need More WomenBeyond Mentoring to Sponsorship | Protect Your Protégée from Flextime Saboteurs | How to Keep Sex from Derailing a Sponsorship | ‘Soft Skills’ Advice Needed, Too | Use Others to Promote Your Protégée | 8 Ways Sponsors Can Highlight Opportunities | 17 Ways Sponsors Can Help Protégées | 3 Ways to Open a Sponsorship Conversation | What Sponsors Need from

Mentors serve a variety of roles and functions. Some of these roles support professional development, socialization and confidence building, while others are directed at career advancement. A mentor may serve several of these functions or only one or two, and many mentors who advocate for their mentees eventually become sponsors.

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