It’s the trifecta to success: mentoring, networking, and sponsoring.
But historically, women are excluded: There’s a reason why it’s called the old boys’ club instead of the old girls’ club.
Interestingly, while women are powerful communicators, we don’t build powerful networks.
“Women tend to build deep and narrow networks and men wide and shallow ones,” according to Kelly Hoey, Co-Founder of Women Innovate Mobile (WIM) Accelerator. “The weaker ties built by casting a wide networking net are the greatest source of new ideas, information, and opportunities.”
Traditionally, men have forged these bonds by playing golf or going to the pub.
I’ll never forget the day I was chatting to my co-host at a Sydney radio station, when the boss walked in.
He immediately struck up a conversation with my colleague about football, wool grading, and the exclusive private boarding school they both attended.
I sat silently in the corner wishing the earth would swallow me whole.
He looked at me like I was from another planet.
We need to build our own clubs, because hiring – and promotion – is often based on relationships.
According to a 2011 survey of more than 1000 working women by networking site LinkedIn, one in five said they’d never had a mentor at work.
The reasons? Comparatively low numbers of female managers to entry-level staff and not enough time because of work/family balance.
Yet mentoring is mandatory, especially for women.
EY Sydney managing partner Lynn Kraus was last year named Mentor of the Year at the NAB Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards.
She’s been mentoring five women over the past five years. And, she’s been a mentee.
“While these two [female mentors] were very different in many ways, they did share several things in common: personal resilience, self confidence and both were excellent communicators. They invested in me and believed in me and I feel it is my job to do the same for others.”
I feel the same way about the young woman I mentor through the Women in Media program.
After our first session she walked into the boss’ office, told him about an offer from a competitor, and asked for a (promised) higher profile role.
It worked a treat: He reiterated the company’s commitment, upgraded her position, and created a clear career path.
Then we talked about an issue at my work. She gave valuable advice to help me to the next level. It’s symbiotic.
The third piece to this triptych is sponsorship.
As a 2010 Harvard Business Review report puts it: “Women enter the white-collar workforce in even greater numbers than men: 53 females for every 47 males. Yet as all employees in large corporations move from entry-level to middle management, and from mid- to senior-level positions, men advance disproportionately, outstripping women nearly two to one. At the very topmost rungs of the career ladder, men outnumber women nearly four to one.”
The research found very few women have sponsors or colleagues senior enough to assist them.
In the same year, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, frustrated by this lack of progress, launched a female partner sponsorship program.
Three years later, 60 per cent of the women had moved into a leadership role or were running a business unit, and 90 per cent had been promoted.
Sponsorship, mentoring and networking: Now that’s a trifecta I’d put money on.