Why your company should consider sponsorship ?

27th Jun 2014

Why Sponsorship? 

The European Commission states "As Europe collectively strives to recover from the recent recession and build a platform for future growth and stability.....one crucial resource lies in the untapped economic potential of women.  Their full integration into the decision making process in the areas of the ecomony is crucial"

Companies have invested in female leadership through varous 'empowerment" type programmes and yet still there is a lack of senior female leaders.

A recent report from Reed Smith- which analyzed the effectiveness of various "women's initiatives' finds that sponsorship programmes are the most effect way of enabling women to more senior roles.

Sponsorship has become the new focal point - and the idea behind having high potential women backed by very significant power brokers is really critical to get women onto the next step. 

Talented women tend to be excluded from the informal - yet crucial- networks; for example, mixing with senior leaders over a game of golf, socializing over drinks after work, competing at the tri-club. 

Sponsorship is particularly beneficial to women because they, unlike men, are notoriously bad at promoting themselves. For many women, it's almost as if they have always achieved through hard work and talent. They think that the hard work speaks for itself. A sponsor can help women by making sure that its not just about what they produce, but also who knows about the work they do and that they take the credit for it.

The idea behind a formal - as opposed to informal -sponsorship arrangement is to increase fairness and transparency. One key problem is that when left to themselves, sponsors tend to champion proteges who are carbon copies of themselves. As University of Leicester Professor Hilary Sommerland puts it. "Who are the powerful people in these organisations? On the whole they are all middle class  white men and they tend to back young middle class white men"

"We tend to be more comfortable with people who remind us of ourselves" adds Eleanor Haller-Jorden, general manager for Catalyst in Europe. "We see that bias all the time and its not only in sponsorship, its recruitment, it's in promotion and it's in configuring a team". The EU's consultation on whether to bring in mandatory quotas for women in company boardrooms is adding to the impetus for companies to take action. "A growing number of Catalyst members across Europe have decided that, by going the formal and official route, they may be able to circumvent some of the implicit bias that seems to prevail in all of these other approaches."

A study foir the centre of Work Life Policy and the Harvard Business review reports that 64% of men at VP level and above are hestitant to have a one on one meeting with a junior women. In turn junior women often avoid close contact with senior men. If women try to cultivate a close relationship with a male sponsor they risk being the target of workplace gossip. Hence the need for formal programmes which allow for transparency about the pairings. 


  • The Sponsor Effect research shows that 70% of men and 68% of women who have a sponsor are satisfied with their career advancement.
  • Of those without a sponsor only 58% are satisfied with their career progress
  • Women with sponsors are 52% more likley to progress up the pipeline
  • Men are 46% more likely than women to have a sponsor


  • Engages the senior men with high potential women
  • Educates the leadership team about unconscious bias
  • Provides more female role models
  • Leadership team given responsibilty for female advancement

Women who site sponsorship as contributing to their success

  • Janet Loesberg VP Bristol Myers Squibb
  • Sheryl Sandberg COO Facebook
  • Marissa Meyer CEO yahoo
  • Cherie Blair QC
  • Debbie Storey Senior VP AT&T
  • Eleanor Mills Associate Editor Sunday Times
  • Rosa Ramos Kwik MD Bank of America
  • Lynn Utter President and COO Knoll


The Law Society Gazette :"A helping hand: Sponsorship prgrammes. 

Sponsor Effect 2.0 Road map fo Sponsors and Proteges: The Centre for Talent innovation

Gender Balancing : A guide to making Diversity in leadership happen. Reed Smith 












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