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Sponsorship: The key to better leadership programmes?

19 Nov 18

Could a sponsor be the key to promoting better leadership programmes for New Zealand women? According to the chair of the Global Women Leadership Development Committee Anna Stove, the answer may be yes.

While there are plenty of leadership programmes available for women, those programmes don’t generally work on their own, she says.

Leadership programmes are also championed by organisations as a way to diversity their leadership pipelines, but if they’re done in isolation they rarely bring about change.

“NZX-listed companies have only 20% women on boards and 22% women in senior leadership positions, this means men will be among the most powerful stakeholders,” says Stove.

She believes both women and men need to understand how mentorship and sponsorship can help to progress careers.

“Studies have shown that while both genders generally fail to nurture a network of professional sponsors, women are 54% less likely to have a sponsor,” she explains.

But don’t get the terms ‘mentor’ and ‘sponsor’ confused – although they’re often used interchangeably, they’re actually very different. 

“A mentor will give you advice and career guidance, whereas a sponsor will not only advise and advocate for you and will actively help you with your career advancement. 

Understanding those differences is key to progression in the workplace.

“Women tend to derive greater benefit from having a sponsor versus a mentor,” she says. 

Those who want to move up in an organisation need strong work ethics and delivery of results, as well as the development of an engagement strategy that is based around networking goals.

Building relationships with colleagues is also an important aim.

Women should aim to self-advocate for pay rises, promotions and challenging assignments.

“We often think great results will lead a sponsor to take notice and pick us out from the crowd, but asking makes the difference. Sponsors may want to help, but don’t even know that you are keen to advance,” says Stove

She believes that New Zealand organisations need to introduce formal sponsorship programmes for their own benefit as well as their employees. 

“It is essential for New Zealand companies to develop an environment where sponsorships can thrive,” she says.

“While beneficial for those in the relationship they also have an upside for the organisation: increasing talent retention and enhancing the skill pipeline.”

Stove is also general manager of GlaxoSmithKline New Zealand. 

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