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Sponsors, Mentors and Role Models: Is Your Company Providing Them for Women in the Workplace?

While in many ways women have more opportunities than ever before, there is still a gender gap in leadership in particular. According to McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace Study, women remain outnumbered in entry-level management—as of early 2020, women held just 38 percent of manager-level positions. Men held 62 percent. The percentage is even more bleak for senior-level management and c-suite positions. With this in mind, companies have the opportunity to stand out by offering women opportunities for growth.

A gender-diverse, inclusive work environment requires resources that equip women and place them in leadership roles. Two of these resources are sponsorship and mentorship. Mentorships provide best practices, tools, and strategies that equip employees to move up in leadership roles. A sponsor speaks on behalf of the employee and supports actions to ensure they obtain a leadership role. When women rise to leadership positions, increased representation leads other women professionals to see themselves in leadership roles as well.

Generally, people in leadership form informal networks with people who look and act like themselves. They then choose those people for opportunities to lead, to work on highly visible projects, and to mentor. Men currently represent the majority of gender demographics in leadership roles. Consequently, this process creates a cycle where women can be overlooked or excluded for leadership opportunities because they lack access. This is where sponsors and mentors come in! Sponsors can ensure women are included in key decisions that place them at top of mind. Mentors can help women learn and prepare to step into leadership opportunities. For practical examples, a company with excellent representation of both sponsorships and mentorships is Baker Donelson’s Women’s Initiative.

If you’re ready to increase gender diversity in the leadership within your company, start with a quick assessment to understand the interest of women who aspire to attain leadership roles. Additionally, work to identify executive level members who are open to serve as sponsors or mentors. This can be a great start to matchmaking and setting the stage to create formative resources!

We Optimize Work helps organizations who seek resources to support their current initiatives for retention of high-potential women in the workplace and gender diversity in leadership roles. Visit to book a call with me or message me personally on LinkedIn to learn more. Have an optimized day!



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