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Valar Qringaomis

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Women and Sponsors at Work

Sponsor Effect: UK

"Sponsors, unlike mentors, put their reputation on the line for their sponsees. They weren’t just counseling in private; they were advocating in public. Like Jenkins’ sponsor, they provided stretch opportunities and high-visibility assignments, so that their peers might see their chosen talent in action. And they didn’t just connect a sponsee to the inner circle, but ensured that, once singled out for scrutiny, she had the support she needed to outshine everybody else...

The UK’s generous flexible work/maternity leave policies are a double-edged sword, notes Kate Grussing, managing director of Sapphire Partners, a UKbased executive search firm that focuses on senior women. By law, companies in the UK must provide six months of ordinary maternity leave and six months of additional maternity leave; many also offer flex-work schemes and, according to Grussing, many returning mothers feel strong peer pressure to work four days a week. Yet in fast-moving industries and challenging economic times, being out of the loop for an extended period of time carries a huge cost...

59 percent of our senior- and executive-level female respondents say that men make better sponsors...

Our female respondents are searching for a professional woman, that is, who has it all, does it all, and can show them how to be superwomen as well. That’s a high bar for a sponsor. According to management expert Elisabeth Kelan and sociologist Alice Mah, “female role models are caught, like women in management in general, in the double bind of combining being an ideal manager, which means being masculine, with being an ideal woman, which means being feminine”...

For at least the beginning stages, life does seem to reward best those who put forth the most. Those who can sit still and pay attention, who study for exams and go the extra mile on papers—these are the students who get the top grades and garner prizes and awards. And nowadays, the star students are mostly female. Study after study shows that girls outperform boys at school. They get better grades. They score better on standardized tests. They are disproportionately represented in universities.

During the early years of most women’s careers, the pattern continues. “You can come into the organization at the very bottom rung and go up two or three rungs absolutely based on merit,” says Bank of Scotland’s Audrey Connolly.

Things change, however, in middle management. “At that point, it’s not just about doing a good job,” Connolly continues. “Doing well begins to include proactively forming good working relationships with key professionals inside and outside your organization. What got you where you are won’t get you where you want to go, and women get stuck because they don’t know that critical fact. They expect that merit thing to keep working and don’t know how to get their head into a different place.” Or as Carnegie Mellon economics professor Linda Babcock puts it, they “expect life to be fair and they often don’t realize that it’s up to them to make sure that it is”...

Ironically, the very gender difference that handicaps women most in the sponsorship game holds the greatest potential to vault them ahead: women tend to be much better than men at relationships. They have more friends and maintain deeper ties to these friends than men do. So why are guys good at professional relationships and women aren’t?

Research in the field suggests that men and women go about friendship— and perceive its value—very differently. For men, every contact they make, at work or outside of it, is potentially useful, even if that potential is never developed beyond the exchange of business cards. Even in their valuation of relationships, the sexes differ: men say they gain advice from friends, whereas women are more likely to say they get support, according to Geoffrey Grief, a University of Maryland professor and the author of Buddy System: Understanding Male Friendships. Perhaps as an outgrowth of boys being more involved with team sports than girls, men learn that playing well, not talking, forges loyalties. According to Grief, men are not after personal relationships; rather, they focus on playing a game where they barter, broker power and make alliances among contacts they barely know in order to win.

Women, on the other hand, are all about emotional connections...

Men are significantly more likely than women to look to friends at work to help them land a job or close a business deal. In sharp contrast, women turn to colleagues as someone to confide in, laugh with, and lean on, but not use. Hence, when it comes to asking for help, more than half of the women surveyed—upward of 57 percent—feel reluctant...

Getting feedback on executive presence becomes particularly important as women ascend to the marzipan-level, where it’s imperative they’re attuned in their dress, speech, and bearing to the leadership culture. Yet here the silence is deafening: men, according to 28 percent of the women we surveyed, are hesitant to criticize their appearance. Even among sponsored women, 33 percent of them say that their male sponsors hesitate to give feedback on their appearance. Why? Senior men tell us they’re scared to, fearful that a woman will “over-rotate” (take a style suggestion as an insult or burst into tears) or, even more seriously, an offended woman will sue them for sexual harassment. So they look the other way...

One of the senior men we interviewed still recalls how he chickened out when he should have given honest feedback to a woman on his team. “She was a very attractive “bottle blonde,” and the unfortunate thing was, the way she dressed and presented herself reinforced the ‘dumb blonde’ cliché. One client actually told me, ‘It doesn’t help to have this trolley-dolly image.’ But I just couldn’t bring myself to talk about her tight blouses or high heels and how these things undermined her authority and impact. I was fearful of her reaction”...

For a fact, senior men find it far easier to advise junior men. A senior male will tell a male subordinate he needs to polish his shoes, get a decent haircut, buy a better suit, lose a few pounds, or even improve his personal hygiene. “Man on man, we can always make it a joke,” says Steve Richardson, president of Diverse Outcomes and a former senior vice president at American Express. “Not that I’m one of your best friends, mate, but your breath’s a bit off today. Might want to take a mint.” So casually, even unconsciously, do men exchange style pointers that some cannot even fathom why the style component of executive presence is such a conundrum for women. “Joining a firm is like joining a football team,” one male Deloitte manager told us. “You’re issued a uniform and, starting on Day One, you wear it”...

More than half (52 percent) of our female survey respondents (and 47 percent of men) at large companies believe that if female managers were to commit at least one of the following, it would be an EP blunder: their waistlines bulge, their fingernails or hair are unkempt, they wear too much or too little makeup, their skirts are too tight, or their necklines dip dangerously low. Women whose look is sexual or provocative are at particular risk of being struck off the list of those with leadership potential. In the words of Patricia Fili-Krushel, executive vice president at NBCUniversal, they will find themselves in men’s offices “for all the wrong reasons.”

Our respondents are also certain that toeing a conservative line is a far safer strategy than pushing the limits of self-expression. Fifty percent of women (and 41 percent of men) feel that aspiring female execs should observe at least one of the following rules: conservative suit jackets, coiffed hair, well-puttogether accessories, and subtle make-up. In other words, make the mistake of looking too glamorous and you’re seen as a siren; make the mistake of looking too relaxed or casual, and you’re seen as a P.A. or administrative assistant. There are all kinds of ways to get it wrong.

For women of color, figuring out the right look can be especially treacherous. One African-Caribbean female lawyer told us in a focus group that she always dressed in designer suits, despite the office-casual dress code, because when she first started at the firm other employees mistook her for a secretary. She also noted that since she was a black woman, no one would dare approach her with any honest feedback on either her appearance or her performance, for fear of sounding racist...

Some 38 percent of senior men at the level of vice president and above tell us they’re reluctant to have one-on-one meetings with junior women—and 26 percent of junior women say they’re likewise hesitant to initiate such contact. The fact that male-to-male relationships are far less fraught than male-to-female relationships certainly helps explain why men are 25 percent more likely than women to have sponsors...

Survey after survey points to a strong likelihood of an office fling: 60 percent is the average statistic, a figure that has held steady since 2004. According to a recent CareerBuilder.co.uk survey, 43 percent of respondents said they had dated someone above them in the company hierarchy, and 26 percent admitted to dating their boss. Certainly quite a few employees know someone who is sleeping with the boss: Our own research reveals that 45 percent of women and 44 percent of men can “name names”...

At least half (48 percent of men, 52 percent of women) of UK respondents believe that if a senior male at their company so much as socializes one-on-one with a junior woman, he will be the target of office gossip...

If senior male executives in the UK (31 percent) hesitate to spend one-on-one time with female junior staffers because they fear their motives will be misconstrued, and 26 percent of junior women avoid one-on-one time with senior males, a culture of sponsorship may not take root—at least organically...

In the US, sponsorship between high-potential junior women and senior men slams all too often into the barrier of sexual politics. A majority—64 percent— of male executives in the US say they hesitate to spend one-on-one time with a junior woman because of the potential for gossip or lawsuits. For identical reasons, 50 percent of US high-potential junior women avoid one-on-one time with senior males—the pool of target sponsors.

Interestingly, the issue in the UK is less incendiary. Although innuendo is rife— UK women are 40 percent and UK men are 43 percent more likely than their US counterparts to gossip if a senior man socializes with a junior woman— sexual liaisons between a male supervisor and a female subordinate just don’t seem to get in the way of getting work done. Only 38 percent of senior men and 26 percent of junior women say they hesitate to have one-on-one contact of this sort."


You can't get something for nothing: making it easy for women to accuse employers of sexual harassment (It is not a coincidence that the US is more lawsuit-happy than the UK) results in less mentorship of women by men (ditto for the racism worry).

Proclaiming that it is inappropriate for men to comment on women's physical appearance at work means they don't make such comments even when necessary.

Generous maternity benefits means women are held back at work (as in the Nordics).

Also, under the protection of anonymity, it seems senior male executives share Tim Hunt's concerns about women bursting into tears.
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