By Angie Chang (Co-Founder & Editor-in-Chief, Women 2.0)
The first day of the three-day Grace Hopper Celebration of women in computing kicked off with an afternoon of panels and talks about thought leadership, mentorship, sponsorship and more leadership exercises. Around four thousand women engineers and academics are in attendance, as well as women from tech companies recruiting Grace Hopper conference attendees.
On Becoming A Thought Leader
“A thought leader can be is a change agent,” stated Professor Janet H. Murray from Georgia Tech.
HP Product Manager Nina Bhatti said, “Creating credibility in an organization… to inspire others is to belive something is possible, and to invite people to join you in that quest to create it.” We remember Nina from a previous Women 2.0 event where she spoke on “intrapreneurship” – bringing traits of entrepreneurship to corporate environments like HP and big companies. She encouraged women to go outside of your own company or organization to build your network and gain more opportunities.
Nina Bhatti reminded us that “opportunity is rarely gift wrapped with a big bow. When people give you a mess, they are telling you to go do it the way you think it ought to be done. Don’t just fix the edges and stitch it up. Remodel it – and make it into something better.” She left the audience with a book recommendation – It’s Not A Glass Ceiling, It’s A Sticky Floor.
On Mentorship And Sponsorship
Catalyst VP of Partnerships Emma Sabin talked about the benefit of mentorship programs:
“Mentoring programs increase commitment from staff, increase staff loyalty to the organizaton, reduce turnover, improve performance and created greater knowledge sharing throughout the organization. We know also that women benefited form those programs – decreased stress levels (you know you’re not alone, you have someone to work with), increased job satisfaction (you have a better sense of where your work lies in the organization), and increased performance (someone guides and works with you to improve your performance).”
She warns that while mentoring is critical and essential, it is not sufficient.
“Women have more mentors than men now and still aren’t necessarily getting ahead as fast as men are. Why is that? Men have more sponsors. So first look carefully at what mentoring is – someone who is providing advice, coaching, or providing emotional support. But a sponsor is usually someone at a high level in the organization who has influence over the decision-making as it relates to employees and employee placement.
A SPONSOR assists an employee in getting an opportunity, a development opportunity or a promotion – and to get them specific positions. It’s a very action-oriented role. The mentee or protege does not have to know the stealth sponsor – doesn’t have to know that there is a sponsor out there doing this but that’s what the sponsor is doing, that’s the definition of the sponsor. They are ambitious for you.
MENTORS can give you the skills you need to succeed in the role that the sponsor gets you. The mentor and sponsor can be two different people or they can be the same person. The most important item about sponsorship is that they are advocating for you. They are advocates. We talk about sponsorship being foused on advancement and predicated by power. Typically this happened with white men championing over white men and others were left to flounder a little bit.
When we talk about sponsorship, we’re talking about inclusive, thoughtful, mindful, decisive sponsorship – you are looking for someone who is different from you to sponsor. First, the sponsor needs to have an active interest in the career. Sponsors say ‘I think X would do a great job, let’s give her a try.’
Sponsors know what a person is capable of doing and they know where a person needs some stretch opportunities to enhance and broaden skills. Sponsors gain reputational capital from the protege’s success. Taking risks and betting on people. When sponsoring other people, you are seen as a leader and someone who gets things done. There is a lot to gain and a lot to be lost as a sponsor.
What can sponsorship achieve? In our study, mentoring necessary but insufficient for advancement, we found that men MBAs were more likely than women MBAs to have senior level mentors. The difference in initial placement salary and subsequent promotions were substantial. Men land positions 9k+ more than women post-MBAs. Men’s roles were higher up in the level of the organization and they tended to be promoted at a faster rate than women. So what was the difference?
Women’s mentors were not at the same high level as the male colleagues on average. This study was controlled, taking in account work, prior experience, starting level, industry. Men simply receive more promotions and compensation over time. Women and men with senior level sponsors got promoted AT THE SAME RATE.
Unfortunately for some reason, we cannot understand men’s compensation still continues to grow faster than women. A sponsor is necessary if we want to see progress for any one woman in their career but also if we want to see progress for all women in the workforce, and that’s why we think this is such an important topic.”
When I talked to Catalyst’s Emma Sabin after the panel, she shared “a longitudinal study of women paying it forward shows that women who reported that they are developing others over a two-year span had on average $25,000+ greater salary growth than women that did not.”
So go ahead, women, pay it forward – both karmic turn and your paycheck will thank you.
Women 2.0 members: How are you sponsoring or mentoring women to achieve? Let us know in the comments below!
About the writer: Angie Chang is Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Women 2.0, a media company offering content, community and conferences for aspiring and current women innovators in technology. Our mission is to increase the number of female founders of technology startups. Previously, Angie held roles in product management and web UI design. Angie holds a B.A. in English and Social Welfare from UC Berkeley. Follow her on Twitter at @thisgirlangie.