Yesterday I was the Keynote Speaker for one of my favorite keynotes and workshops around Leadership Attitude. Even though the theme was Balance for Better, I focused for Balance is Better for all of us; together regardless on race, gender, age and so forth and to appreciate the uniqueness and talents of us all. Leadership is about being brave and kind – and ultimately if you can inspire someone to do more, learn more and be more; you are a leader. What I loved about the keynote was the number of men and women in the room and the number of men and women in the room who approached me afterward to share how much they got out of my keynote and some had tears (me too by the way…).
However, I was reading that SurveyMonkey and LeanIn released some startling findings recently: men are much more reluctant to participate in workplace activities that have them closely interacting with women since #MeToo and the anti-sexual harassment movement have gained traction. While #MeToo is fantastic for women, the ferocity of support has left many men worried about their actions being misconstrued – and this is causing women to miss out on valuable career opportunities, such as having male mentors and sponsors that can help them advance. In this era of #MeToo, we need to understand that it doesn’t mean we have to be against each other; it’s not men versus women, it’s all of us against inappropriate actions and behaviours that are damaging in the workplace (and all other areas of life).
If men continue to avoid solo interactions with women at work, we’ll only see the gender gap keep widening and the imbalance of power will be even more difficult to address. Men, especially managers, are doing a further disservice to women (even if they aren’t intending to) by hindering their career growth and progression. Great sponsors and mentors can make all the difference to a woman’s success in the workplace, so we must become allies, not enemies.
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So, just how can we demonstrate that we’re all in this together, especially if we’re men who are concerned about being unfairly labelled? The answer is simple: act respectfully to your female colleagues and be sure to support them wherever possible, to help them grow and advance. Sponsorship is one of the best ways to do this.
A workplace sponsor is someone in the workplace who has power, who can influence decisions made about your career progression, advocate for your advancement and success and allows you to make mistakes (sometimes) and take risks, without harming your career. Sponsors go to bat for you, at the expense of risking their credibility and is a truly important part of your growth in the workplace. They are more hands-on than mentors, but that isn’t to say that mentors don’t have their place in helping a woman’s career.
Fast Company released data that shows that sponsorship is one of the most crucial parts of career advancement. Women with sponsors:
● Are 27% more likely to ask for a raise than female peers who aren’t sponsored
● Are 22% more likely to request ‘stretch assignments’ that contribute to their leadership reputation
● Report that 68% are satisfied with how their career is advancing
Men are much more likely to have a sponsor than women – 56% more likely, in fact (according to Harvard Business Review). This culture needs to be changed, so that more men start stepping up and sponsoring their female colleagues, and that those women are prepared to accept the offer.
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