Sponsorship is when leaders or people in power actively advocate for employees from underrepresented demographics. While white men often thrive in our current structure due to tiresome and exclusionary rituals such as the boys’ club, marginalized groups do not. Sponsorship aims to right that power imbalance by actively lifting up employees without such privilege and helping them network and make the right connections needed to advance in their careers.
Sponsors in leadership roles are both allies and cheerleaders, and their support really works. One study from PayScale showed that people who have a sponsor are paid 11.6 percent more than those who don’t.
This stat on its own reveals one reason why women still don’t get paid as much as men: When they don’t have access to the same opportunities as their male counterparts (ie. someone introducing them to the in-crowd), they don’t get to reap those benefits.
One way sponsors can begin addressing that discrepancy in opportunity is simply by speaking the names of women to increase awareness of their hard work or give credit where it’s due. Sometimes saying a name to the right person at the right time makes all the difference for someone’s career to take off.
Acknowledgment can quickly lead to more public recognition, a promotion, or other forms of advancement, not to mention greater job satisfaction.
Studies have suggested that women don’t get credit at work like men do, and especially when they’re working on projects alongside men. It’s been found that women are more likely to undervalue what they contributed when working as part of a team, so sponsors have an important opportunity to help women gain the recognition they may not even feel comfortable giving themselves.
Of course, there are times when employees simply represent the company, and the work they do is credited to the organization as a whole. Sometimes, that’s just part of the job. But don’t overlook the times when giving credit is important for advancing women.
We’ll look at how leaders can be better advocates and then cover six key moments when you should say the names of women in the workplace.
Read more: 8 Incredible Ways Women Impact Your Company
How leaders can be better advocates for women
Advocating for women and fostering real change starts with leaders providing the same opportunities for employees of all genders, period.
According to Dr. Arin N. Reeves, president of the consulting firm Nextions, leaders are responsible for monitoring such equality. “Are men getting things women are not? If so, you need to address it, you need to close the gap.”
In regards to mentoring and sponsorship, Reeves says sometimes it’s about what transpires in social interactions. “It sounds kind of cliché—golfing or going drinking. It’s not that women are clamoring to go drinking or golfing with you, but if that is where opportunities are discussed and allocated where mentoring happens, that is when it becomes important for either the women to be there or for there to be conscious effort to include women in other ways.”
Reeves also says she’s seen a lot of companies make a big deal that they’re having dialogues about equality and providing training about these issues, but that they need to take it a step further and show how they’re going to actually measure success.
For women to truly advance, leaders need “carefully designed awareness sessions that will really make a difference in their organization,” as well as “visible and meaningful participation by the leaders in all those programs,” Reeves says. Efforts may become meaningless if leaders themselves aren’t participating.
Are companies just doing something to say they’re doing it? Or are they asking how an initiative will actually make a difference in their outcomes? Without this second step, not much will change.
Regarding giving credit to women and saying their names at work, Reeves still says that evaluating equity is everything.
“A woman’s name being mentioned is really connected to who else’s name is being said and where. You want to be sure women’s names are being mentioned right alongside the men.”
6 times to speak her name
As a sponsor or organization leader, when should you be saying the names of women employees? Here are six scenarios when women in the pipeline should be given credit with specific callouts.
1. When she has a brilliant idea
If a woman employee has contributed greatly to a department or campaign with a game-changing idea that was behind success, credit her for contributing the idea that set things off on the right foot.
2. When she directs a major project
Make sure women are getting credit for all the time and energy they’re putting into big company projects. When something is completed and it’s a big deal for the organization, specifically call out who was leading the project.
3. When a catastrophe was avoided
It’s also important to give credit to women when they diffuse a situation or help the organization avoid something catastrophic. They may have stepped in and saved the company lots of money or reputational damage.
4. When she finds the perfect hire
Sometimes the best new faces can be attributed to employees who referred them. When the perfect person for the job is found and they have initial successes, say the name of the woman who brought them to the company in the first place.
5. When she makes a discovery
Sometimes the why behind a company’s problem is hard to nail down. Give credit to the woman who examines the situation and finds the culprit. Highlight her problem-solving skills and other people will start to notice how valuable she is.
6. When she was part of a team
When discussing the success of a department or team, don’t leave out the names of women. Include every employee who contributed to the successful outcome, and discuss specific components that the women team members worked on.
Saying the names of women at work is an important way for sponsors to advocate for them and help their advancement. While the genders need to have all the same opportunities for true workplace equity, the simple step of saying the names of women in the workplace can have major impacts.
About our source
A leading researcher, author, and advisor in the fields of leadership and inclusion, Dr. Arin N. Reeves studied business at DePaul University’s College of Commerce, attended law school at University of Southern California and received her Ph.D. in Sociology from Northwestern University.
Reeves is a best-selling author of three books—The Next IQ, One Size Never Fits All, and Smarter Than A Lie—and she is the managing director of the research and advisory firm, Nextions, a new way of doing leadership and inclusion. Reeves has designed and led several comprehensive research projects on leadership and inclusion in topics ranging from gender equity, generational diversity, LGBTQI diversity, racial/ethnic, diversity, cultural integration and implicit bias to transformational leadership and working through generational differences.
Before Nextions, Reeves practiced law for several years and served as an adjunct professor at Northwestern University where she taught classes on law and society.