Step Five In The Path To Parity: Identify Women of Potential and Give Them Sponsors, as well as Mentors

The Path to Parity with Paradigm for Parity’s 5-Point Action Plan

Paradigm for Parity
Dec 4, 2017 · 5 min read

Women are underrepresented at almost every level in the corporate pipeline, and they are drastically underrepresented at the senior levels. And while company commitment to gender diversity is at an all-time high, calls for greater diversity haven’t moved the needle.

There is widespread agreement that more needs to be done. The Paradigm for Parity® 5-Point Action Plan is the solution. When implemented together, the five steps can catalyze change and enable substantial progress towards gender parity.

As part of our Path to Parity series, this week we’re showcasing the fifth and final step in the Action Plan, Providing sponsors, not just mentors, to women well positioned for long term success with insights from Paradigm for Parity® companies.

There is a difference between sponsorship and mentorship — and both are important to a woman’s career success. The Harvard Business Review says “sponsors not only advise their charges, they promote, protect, prepare, and push them.”

So why does someone who has a mentor need a sponsor? Why are sponsorships so important for women to move up the corporate ladder? A sponsor is someone who advocates for you, whether you are in the room or not. And sponsors are critical to propelling women into leadership positions.

Gail Jackson, the Vice President of Diversity & Inclusion at UTC explains the difference between sponsors and mentors: “Both mentors and sponsors are important and they are different. Mentors advise and sponsors act. A sponsor gives you feedback privately and is your strong advocate publicly. Sponsors invest their own political capital in your success.”

Joyce Russell, the President of Adecco Staffing USA, says a “sponsor is someone who gives you some of their own credibility by not only taking the time to coach you, but by advocating for your future success. They believe in you wholeheartedly and aren’t afraid to let others know that you have what it takes.”

Sponsorships are critical for success. Fast Company reports that “Seventy percent of men and 68% of women who have a sponsor reported being satisfied with their career advancement. Women with sponsors are 27% more likely than their unsponsored female peers to ask for a raise and 22% more likely to ask for the ‘stretch assignments’ that build their reputations as leaders.”

Julie Fasone Holder, a founding member of the Paradigm for Parity® coalition, explains the important role sponsors have in the promotion process: “Sponsors are senior leaders who can influence who gets chosen for important roles. They represent the woman when career progression discussions come up and make sure that the right roles are given to her so that she has a chance to progress and compete for top roles.”

According to Harvard Business Review, women are 54 percent less likely to have a sponsor than a man.

Paradigm for Parity® companies are taking the lead in establishing a corporate culture that encourages sponsorship.

Cynthia Bowman, Global Diversity and Inclusion Executive of Bank of America explains describes Bank of America’s efforts to encourage sponsorships: ”We’ve seen the impact of sponsorship through our Diverse Leader Sponsorship Program, which pairs about 100 protégés with senior leader sponsors each year who work together for 10 months to help the protégé find opportunities to connect with other leaders, expand and refine skill sets, and advance their careers. We’ve found protégés through this program to be twice as likely to be promoted. I personally was sponsored by Sheri Bronstein, now our global HR exec, soon after I joined the bank in 2007, and our relationship has been instrumental to my career.”

Karyn Twaronite, the Global Diversity & Inclusion Officer at EY, points out, “education and awareness are key. It’s important for people to know how to sponsor, are aware of whom they are sponsoring, and aren’t inadvertently sponsoring only people who look like or act like them.”

Michele Chase, Managing Director of Worldwide Human Resources at Burson-Marsteller, explains that “a company can have a formal sponsorship program where high achievers are matched with a sponsor, or it can work to find hidden gems who can eventually turn out to be the next generation of leadership with the right support and guidance.”

Agnieszka Yank, the Chief Talent Officer at APCO Worldwide, describes her company’s sponsorship program: “APCO has achieved great success with a program for new employees that pairs them with a New Hire Buddy to offer guidance during the first few weeks, offers connections to mid-level mentors and meetings with senior-level staff, and includes a coordinator who serves as a built-in mentor to offer knowledge, tactical advice and guidance.”

Steve Mizell, Executive Vice President & Chief Human Resource Officer at Monsanto, explains: “Successful leaders obsess over leaving behind organizations stronger than they inherited them. Their legacy is built, not just upon a stellar track record of results, but in the quality of diverse leadership they create; to help the organization reinvent itself with each generation. Sponsorship of diversity comes naturally to such leaders. They have been sponsoring diverse talent their entire careers, without necessarily even calling it sponsorship.”

By embracing our 5-Point Action Plan, companies are working to create an environment where women who are qualified and motivated to advance are sponsored, paving the way for continual growth and promotion.

About the Paradigm for Parity® Movement

The Paradigm for Parity® coalition is composed of CEOs, senior executives, founders, board members and business academics who are committed to achieving a new norm in corporate leadership: one in which women and men have equal power, status, and opportunity.

The coalition created the Paradigm for Parity® 5-Point Action Plan for corporations to accelerate the pace of gender equity in senior executive roles. This unique agenda defines bold and specific actions that, taken together and simultaneously implemented as a package, will catalyze change and enable today’s business executives to secure the best leaders of tomorrow. Visit or follow us on Twitter using @p4parity to learn more about this exciting initiative.

Paradigm for Parity

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The Paradigm for Parity® movement is a coalition of business leaders dedicated to addressing the leadership gender gap in corporate America.

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