A workplace sponsor is traditionally someone in a position in a company that is able to guide and influence your progress through the maze and politics of advancement. A sponsor takes an employee they think has potential and guides them in a different manner than a mentor or supporter would.
There continues to be evidence in studies that sponsors are one of the most effective methods of advancing in an organization. Sponsors get employees noticed, and create opportunities for them to progress.
What Does a Workplace Sponsor Do
A workplace sponsor usually identifies employees that are perched on the entresol, the level between levels, waiting for the chance to rise into the executive ranks. Sponsors, usually already executive grade, take an interest in furthering the advancement of the employees with the most potential.
A sponsor's interest can come from a desire to help others advance, but most of the time there are other motivators that influence a decision to sponsor someone. The key motivator for finding a protege is to further the interests and profitability of the company.
A sponsor is not only necessary for movement into C Level positions, but it is also necessary for jump-starting many careers. You may not have the opportunities in front of you that you need to advance. A sponsor not only has the connections, but they have the platform to get you noticed, nominated and moving forward.
Data Behind Sponsorship
In a six month period between 2018 and 2019, Payscale.com had over 98,000 respondents to a survey about sponsors. The results are quite a change from traditional sponsorship survey results, which show that white males have more of a likelihood of having a sponsor in their workplace. According to the Payscale study, 57.4% of men reported having sponsors while 56% of women reported the same. The average reported for men and women combined was 56.7%.
These data are a significant improvement over less recent studies which showed women far behind men in sponsorship. However, minority women still lag behind, with 55% of Black and Hispanic women claiming to have a sponsor.
The difference in earnings for sponsored workers with a bachelor's degree versus no sponsored workers is significant:
"Hispanic women with a sponsor earn 6.1 percent more than Hispanic women without one. Black women with a sponsor earn 5.1 percent more than Black women without one. On the other hand, Asian women with a sponsor earn about the same as those without one. For comparison, the Sponsorship Premium for white men is 4 percent, while for white women it is 2 percent."
This means that Hispanic and Black women can stand to gain the most by acquiring a sponsor, while Asian women have not been gaining from sponsors at all. Sponsorship Premium refers to the amount a person stands to gain by having a sponsor.
According to this study, 73% of the respondents had sponsors that were their managers. Of the respondents, only approximately 16% had their manager's manager as a sponsor.
White male sponsors have a significant effect on the pay and advancement of the respondents. Those who have a white male sponsor (regardless of race or gender), achieved higher pay rates than those with a non-white male sponsor. White males earn less when they are sponsored by a female as well.
This suggests that while there have been improvements with equality in workplaces, there is still a dominance of white male influences in advancements in the workplace.
How to Find A Sponsor
Regardless of the results of the study, it pays to have a sponsor. There was no mention in the results of the effect a manager's manager had on sponsorship. If you are looking for a sponsor, it appears as if most people are turning to their manager for sponsorship.
A manager's manager is the second most popular choice for sponsors, followed by unspecified or other people.
Many larger organizations are creating sponsorship programs for their employees in the zone just below the executives, called the marzipan layer, to assist them in preparing for executive positions. You may be able to find a sponsor in your large or mid-sized organization.
You should have an excellent performance record if you want to be accepted by a workplace sponsor as a protege. Executives and higher managers do not want to tarnish their reputations by sponsoring someone without glowing records and recommendations.
You'll have to get noticed by putting yourself out to be seen. Most people that will sponsor someone do not stroll the workplace looking for a potential protege, although it is possible. Find opportunities to put yourself in the spotlight, such as volunteering to head up presentations or smaller projects.
Find ways to make yourself valuable to a sponsor. You must be able to give them something work-related in return. Make inquiries about leaders in your workspace you are considering to be potential sponsors and see if you can find any professional needs they may have. You may be able to provide them with knowledge or experience they don't have.
Acquiring a sponsor can be work. Once you do find one, the benefits can be very rewarding. Your career will begin to accelerate. As you climb the ladder, be sure to look back down to find another performer in need of some assistance.