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Sponsors Key to Career Advancement for Women - Expert

Leadership programmes are not meeting the career needs of many New Zealand women according to a local expert.

Anna Stove, Chair of the Global Women Leadership Development Committee says while there are plenty of leadership programmes available for women in the workplace they are usually ineffective on their own.

She says many are held up as examples of a company’s commitment to diversifying its leadership pipeline, but despite the resources and good intentions behind such programmes, they rarely bring about real change if done in isolation.

“To achieve professional advancement both women and men need to better understand the role of mentoring and sponsorship to progress their career,

“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.

Stove who is also general manager of GSK NZ says while the terms ‘mentoring’ and ‘sponsorship’ are often used interchangeably, the are not the same and understanding the difference between them is one of the keys to progression in the workplace.

“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.

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

Stove’s says moving up in an organisaton requires more than a strong work ethic and delivering results, it requires the development of an engagement strategy based around networking goals.

She says in addition to fostering relationship with other women, they need to look at their male colleagues as well.

“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 says that women also need to self-advocate for pay raises, 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.

Stove says Kiwi 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.

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

-Ends-

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