Corporate women overwhelmingly see a glass ceiling holding them back, but having a mentor or sponsor can make a world of difference to their career progression.
Just 32 percent of female workers believe they can reach the C-suite, but that number leaps to 61 percent if they have a sponsor, according to research by Women of Influence and American Express.
However, only 27 per cent of female entrepreneurs and corporate workers have a mentor, while eight percent have a sponsor.
Catherine Finley, vice president of human resources at Amex Canada, says the study shows HR has a crucial role to play in supporting female workers to connect with mentors, if it wants to see them progress.
“Having a mentor, having a sponsor, is absolutely critical and very helpful for women’s self-perception and for their level of ambition,” she says.
“Mentorship and sponsorship is about partnering with someone who can help you along your journey, and it doesn’t matter at which stage you are in your career, there’s always something to be learned, lessons to be learned, and moving forward.”
It also fosters a culture of diversity and inclusion, which helps employers attract top talent and retain high-potential employees, Finley says.
A company doesn’t necessarily need a formal mentorship program; HR can begin by identifying high-potential female talent, and working with senior leaders on ways to help those staff.
Finley adds that creating networking opportunities is often a better move than trying to pair off mentors with mentees.
Staff, too, should be putting their hand up for opportunities, getting to know their company’s leadership, and taking part in town halls and other events, Finley suggests.
Amex has an informal mentorship program, paired with a culture that supports and embraces mentoring and sponsorship opportunities for staff, which is helping women get ahead.
“If we look overall, women hold just 33 percent of senior management positions in Canada. At Amex, 43 percent of senior leadership positions are held by females. This is no accident,” Finley says.
“We do proactively foster networks, foster mentorship and sponsorship relationships. We believe that getting the message out is going to be imperative to support equality in the workforce.”
The company has also partnered with the Women’s Executive Network to create a guide to Mentorship Fundamentals
that women and other businesses can utilize.
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