The Global Male Perspective on Mentoring & Sponsorship
Research shows that a critical success variable for upwardly mobile women is a sponsor; this is something I am also repeatedly told by women advancing in the workplace.
Given that there are still many more male than female executives, you will most likely need to work with a man to get the most influential sponsor possible.
Unfortunately, women all over the world, and most especially in developing and emerging economies, worry about misperceptions that people tend to have about close relationships between a man and woman in the workplace.
So, what’s a gal to do? I asked business men from the Middle East, Africa and Latin America who have experience and success mentoring and sponsoring women. Here is their direct advice.
The three best ways to participate in a mentor/sponsor relationship with a man are:
- If you deliver exceptional results and demonstrate high potential, you will increase the likelihood that a successful man in your company or industry will proactively seek you out to advise you and advocate on your behalf. All the businessmen I connected with indicated that they most typically initiate a sponsor or mentor relationship based on the potential and focused drive they observe in women (and men).
- If you determine that you need to initiate the relationship, the men I spoke with advise that you be very direct and explicit in your request to a male executive. Khaled Kilani, Co-Founder and Chairman at Palma in Jordan, has had a great deal of success accelerating the growth of women entrepreneurs. He recommends:
- “Be very prepared for the conversation with prospective sponsor/mentor. Do your homework in advance.” Clearly identifying the sponsor’s areas of expertise. “A good mentor will test your seriousness and commitment.”
- “Engage on a strategic level, not on minor tactical issues that you can get help on elsewhere.”
- Participate in a formal mentoring or sponsor program initiated by your company or an organization in your community. Abdul-Samed Iddrisu, Director of Transaction Banking at Fidelity Bank in Ghana said that participation in such structured programs the best way to alleviate any misperceptions about the nature of a relationship. If your company or community does not have such a program in place, recommend that one be established.
In order to preempt those who would critically judge a male/female mentoring relationship, the men I spoke with indicated that they take the initiative to communicate very clearly both internally and externally about the nature of the engagement and meetings they are having with their mentees.
Additionally, Olu Omoyele from Nigeria, and Technical Specialist at the Bank of England, tells women that if they develop and maintain a consistent image, strong sense of self, and project a dedicated career/business focused identity, they will minimize opportunities for gossip and speculation.
Omoyele also says that “Although ambitious women should seek mentoring early in their careers, they should be careful not to be sucked in the mindset that ‘women need extra help’ because that is false.”
The most encouraging thing I heard came from Kilani, who has successful sponsored over 20 entrepreneurs. He said “In my experience, female employees have more potential and capability than their male counterparts. A good mentor can polish a raw diamond but he cannot create one!”
“In my experience, female employees have more potential and capability than their male counterparts. A good mentor can polish a raw diamond but he cannot create one!”
After talking with these men who have successfully mentored and sponsored women in the workplace, the key takeaways were not to let societal pressure, people who may be envious of your potential or competitive with you, or your own hesitation about what people might say or think, hold you back.