Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Sponsorship: the New Hammer to Crack the Glass Ceiling

My recent posts on Unconscious Bias include a personal story, the legacy of patriarchy, schemas, and studies from sociology. You can probably tell that it is a subject that interests me greatly. Therefore, I was delighted to find an article in Sunday’s Washington Post that sheds new light on our biases as well as the importance of “Sponsorships,” which are different from “Mentorships” in ways that are vital to promotion and success. The article is:

By Brigid Schulte

Kent Gardiner, chairman of the law firm Crowell & Moring, sat down to talk about why his firm is partnering with economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s Center for Talent Innovation to promote sponsorship of women and minorities in the workplace, how sponsoring is different and why it matters.

Q: Why were you interested in starting a sponsorship program? Women have been graduating from college in greater numbers than men since 1985. Women make up nearly half of all law school students. Aren’t we “there” yet?

Gardiner: We’re nowhere near there. I’ll be happy if I see my children live in a color- and gender-blind society. That’s the next generation.
I think most law firms have gone through periods of trying to enhance entry-level diversity, with a fair degree of success. But the falloff of success, the ability to retain and develop [diverse talent] has been much less satisfying.

Then along comes the notion of sponsorship, which is really quite radically different.

Many of the more senior people in these organizations think diversity enhancement is some accommodation, an agreed-upon weakening of the organization. That’s unconscious bias.

Sponsorship goes right at that and says, “No, wait a minute, you’re completely misunderstanding here. The folks who are of a more diverse nature, whether gender, race, or ethnicity, are just encountering a different obstacle course to success than the relatively obstacle-free course that exists for white men.”

For more, click here.