Is Your Workplace Good for Women's Advancement?

  • By Katie Karlson
  • February 22, 2011

She believed she could so she did Print

Women account for 60% of college graduates, but only 3% of Fortune 500 CEOs—and women in white-collar management jobs still make 81 cents to a man’s dollar. Closing these gaps means companies need to change the gender game, and a few are leading the charge. Working Mother’s new Working Mother Research Institute just published a report of the 10 Best Companies for Women’s Advancement, outlining what makes a company good for moving women up the ladder.

Many of the companies that made the cut offer career counseling, affinity groups, mentoring and management training. Managers are trained in hiring and advancing women, managing employees’ work-life concerns, and implementing flexible schedules.

But the biggest factor in women’s advancement is networking—and sponsorship in particular.

What is sponsorship? A sponsor is a senior leader who actively advocates for an employee’s advancement. A recent report from the think tank Center for Work-Life Policy said that many qualified women hit career plateaus because “they simply don’t have the powerful backing necessary to inspire them, propel them, and protect them through the perilous straits of upper management.”

Unfortunately, formal sponsorship programs are still fairly rare. All 10 of Working Mother’s Best Companies for Women’s Advancement have them, but only 38% of the companies on its list of the 100 Best Companies do. “While the concept of sponsorship isn’t completely new, its widespread adoption is,” says Jennifer Owens, Director of the Working Mother Research Institute. “We expect it to grow as more companies realize the power of sponsorship programs.”

It's Personal. Have you ever been sponsored in an active way by a senior colleague? Is there someone you could sponsor?

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