By Melissa J. Anderson (New York City)
According to the latest research from Catalyst, sponsoring high potential employees comes along with significant benefits. In addition to developing key allies and demonstrating your own leadership capabilities, sponsoring a protégé is correlated with compensation growth.
How much? Catalyst says that during the 2008 to 2010 time period, sponsors received an additional $25,075.
Christine Silva, co-author of the report along with Sarah Dinolfo and Nancy M. Carter, explained, “We were really pleased that we had hard numbers showing that sponsorship is a win-win. When you pay it forward and develop others, you also get ahead further and faster.”
She added, “Not only that, but there’s a benefit to the organization when people help develop the next generation of leaders. So sponsorship really is a triple win.”
Women Sponsors and Queen Bees
Silva explained that the latest report fits in well with prior research on high potential women. As a proxy for this group, Catalyst surveyed MBA graduates from top business schools. “We saw that high potential women are doing everything they can to get ahead. We found that women have had more mentors than men throughout their careers.”
The survey found that the more mentors and sponsors a high potential had, the more likely they were to pay it forward in the form of sponsorship. Considering this, she continued, it’s not a shock that more women are sponsoring and mentoring individuals than men. In fact, 65% of women who received career development support are developing new talent. Only 56% of men could say the same.
“It’s probably not surprising that more women are paying it forward, since women have had more mentors than men throughout their careers.”
Secondly, she said, the research refutes the oft-repeated “queen bee” myth, that says that women don’t help other women. In fact, women sponsor women at a greater rate than men do (70% compared to 30%).
“It’s quite surprising that the queen bee myth has held on as long as it has,” she explained. “It’s consistent with research that’s been around for years, that people gravitate toward those like themselves.”
She explained that one reason the myth continues to be prevalent is because there are so few women at the top. When an individual woman isn’t willing to help another person develop his or her career, she is perceived as representing all women. On the other hand, when an individual man doesn’t help others advance, he’s just seen as an individual, rather than representative of the whole.
“There’s no evidence of a queen bee phenomenon. Instead, there’s strong evidence that women help other women and they are doing so even more than men,” Silva added.
Finally, the report found, there isn’t a big difference in the type of sponsorship women and men engage in. It says, “67% of both women and men gave their protégés career or job advice.”
Additionally, it continues, “there were no differences between men and women when it came to stereotypically “feminine” support such as social support (7% of women, 8% of men) and role-modeling (15% of women, 11% of men).”
Choosing the Right Protégé
How to get your hands on that $25,000 pay boost, and help develop the next generation of your firm’s top talent? According to Silva, it’s important to choose your protégés carefully. You want to find someone who is capable of high performance in new responsibilities and worthy of your trust.
“Senior women looking for a protégé should look for someone who has demonstrated talent and has the potential to succeed in new opportunities.” She added, “We also want to be sure we’re looking at protégés equally in terms of their past performance and their potential.”
She also pointed out that Catalyst’s recent “Sponsoring Women to Success” report includes some helpful information on qualities sponsors should look for in a protégé: trust, honesty, communication, and commitment. “So it may help if it’s someone they already have a relationship with.”
Finally, she added, protégés who have been sponsors and then later become sponsors themselves are usually more committed to their company’s performance and future.
“There’s such great evidence that creating a culture of sponsorship can help high potentials advance their own careers and pay it forward. They position themselves as leaders who have the organization’s best interests in mind.”
Working to instill a culture of sponsorship can help develop more engaged, committed women on the path to the top.