Australia - With a focus on accelerating inclusion, the recently announced strategic alliance between Mercer, a global leader in talent consulting, and Dr Jess Murphy, creator of leadership and talent development experience - Pathway to Your Potential - is turning up the dial on sponsorship to help close the gender gap.
“We are continuing to make great strides in tackling the gender equity issue, but there is no denying that employers struggle to pinpoint precisely why certain talent segments don’t thrive at the same rate as others and why there continues to be a lack of women in leadership positions,” said Yolanda Beattie, Leader of Mercer’s Learning & Inclusion practice.
According to the latest results from Workplace Gender Equality Agency, only 29.7% of women hold key management positions[i]. This is in a workforce where women represent 46.9% of all persons employed in Australia.
“Now is the time for leaders to tackle the critical change lever of leadership effectiveness through sponsorship, and in so doing, empower all talent and recognise the full value diversity brings to their organisation,” said Ms Beattie.
Dr Murphy’s acclaimed Pathway to Your Potential (P2YP) has been an advocate for sponsorship as an effective tool to engage and challenge leaders to become more effective.
“The success of the program is attributed to the effectiveness of sponsorship as a tool to disrupt the status quo,” said Dr Murphy. “Coaching and mentoring happen one on one, but sponsorship is about public advocacy, connecting you to audiences you might never normally access; increasing your visibility. It’s by definition public – someone putting their personal brand on the line to back another.”
However, within organisations and among leaders, the role of a mentor and a sponsor are often misinterpreted as being one in the same.
“While both can greatly help the career of an individual, the difference is significant,” said Dr Murphy.
“By definition a mentor is an adviser who will listen and advise, they will talk to you to help you understand and navigate your organisation. It happens one-on-one,” she said. “A sponsor talks about you. Its very nature is public - connecting you to audiences, opportunities and networks that typically, may be outside your own reach.”
There is a raft of research out there saying sponsorship is the missing piece for women. And sponsorship in Dr Murphy’s view works best when senior executives are matched with up-and-coming talent that is different to them.
“What this does, is support people on both sides of the fence – the ‘in’ group and ‘out’ group if you like – to ultimately create large and lasting change,” she said. “When you have leaders who are personally invested and have gotten to know diverse talent through sponsorship, that’s when progress happens
“I’ve seen it time and again: the leaders who have spent time with rising stars with different backgrounds tend to go back to their own line of business and start making changes off their own bat – recognising talent that’s different to themselves, learning and experimenting with how to best ‘involve difference’ and then reaching down and pulling up that talent. These leaders also become so much more aware of the barriers that hold people back, barriers that were previously invisible to them.”
The vast majority of senior leaders understand the benefits of diversity but it’s the ‘how’ that they struggle with – how do I do this? And, for most, it’s the fear of getting it wrong or it being misconstrued by others that holds them back.
In the next five to 10 years, when baby boomers are transitioning out of the workplace, they have a unique window to be the transformational change that hands the baton over to the next wave of talent coming up through the ranks. Part of that is recognising that leadership comes in all forms, and part of it is having the confidence to take action and create change.
“Organisational leaders play a driving role with enormous ability to influence change and impact in this space – and reap the resulting benefits to their own business performance. Let’s challenge the status quo and #SponsorHer,” said Ms Beattie.
Mercer delivers advice and technology-driven solutions that help organisations meet the health, wealth and career needs of a changing workforce. Across the Pacific, organisations look to Mercer for global insights, thought leadership and product innovation to help transform and grow their businesses.
Mercer’s more than 22,000 employees are based in 44 countries and the firm operates in over 130 countries. Mercer is a wholly owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies (NYSE: MMC), the leading global professional services firm in the areas of risk, strategy and people. With more than 65,000 colleagues and annual revenue over $14 billion, through its market-leading companies including Marsh, Guy Carpenter and Oliver Wyman, Marsh & McLennan helps clients navigate an increasingly dynamic and complex environment. For more information, visit www.mercer.com.au.