Why Career Sponsors For Women In Tech Is Compulsory

Man and woman sitting at opposite sides of a desk looking at laptops, career sponsor concept


Did you know you should be looking for a career sponsor as well as a mentor if you’re a woman in tech?

A mentor is someone who supports and guides you in your career, while a sponsor is someone who champions you. The key difference is that mentors provide advice while sponsors also provide opportunities.

This is like the equivalent of the ‘old boys’ club’ for men, where a powerful individual in your industry or company can put your name forward for promotions and new roles.

Some people argue that it’s impossible to break the glass ceiling without one.

Benefits for women in tech

Women are 54% less likely to have a sponsor than men. 68% of women who do have a sponsor report being happy with their level of career advancement.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett says: “Often women languish in the “marzipan layer” of companies – the sticky middle slice of management where so many driven and talented people get stuck.

“But our research at the Center for Talent Innovation shows that sponsors, not mentors, put you on the path to power and influence by affecting three things: pay raises, high-profile assignments and promotions.”

Women are often held back for exhibiting the same self-promotional behaviours that men use to get ahead. Sponsorship helps women overcome this unfair double-standard.

Barriers to sponsorship

Many sponsors at such as a senior level are going to be male.

Women need to be encouraged to step outside their own bias in choosing sponsors who are like themselves. Appreciate the value of a sponsor who may not closely identify with them on a personal level.

Mentors are often someone with a similar background to you, such as another woman in tech. However, sponsors can be anyone with the power to help you advance your career.

Potential sponsors need to be shown the value of sponsorship for effective leaders. They are nurturing the best talent in the company and earning a reputation as a leader invested in talent sustainability.

Examples of successful sponsorship

Cisco has launched a Sponsorship Initiative to support the advancement of women and minorities internally. It also encourages men to become advocates and sponsors.

Dell offers Women in Leadership training to advance women beyond director level. They also run a sponsorship programme for female execs to connect them with senior leaders.

HP has a female CEO and CFO and runs a sponsorship programme called HP Advance. The programme connects female directors and vice presidents with opportunities.

Goldman Sachs runs a leadership programme that links female technologists in the firm with senior sponsors.

Improving employee retention

Women are leaving technology roles at twice the rate of men. Effective sponsorship and mentoring improves retention and creates a committed, pay-it-forward working environment.

If talented women can advance at a rate that satisfies them, they are more likely to stay in the industry. This creates a virtuous circle by providing positive role models for other women in tech.

It also shows women that they will not be disadvantaged in their career for having a family.

If you need help with retaining female employees in your tech firm, why not sign up for the free Equality Pays webinar on ‘4 steps to hiring more women in tech’ to improve your results?

About the author

Michelle Gyimah

Michelle Gyimah is the Director of Equality Pays, a Gender Equality Consultancy dedicated to helping technology firms create inclusive business cultures.  Her firm has worked with technology firms and the financial services industry. Michelle is a regular contributor to numerous business magazines, international conferences and lives in Manchester, UK.




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