A social media campaign by Canada’s business leaders is aiming to promote women in senior roles. The campaign is committing to champion woman in her career and challenging other executives to participate. The campaign asks top executives to support a woman of their choice publicly, post the pledge on social media and ‘tag’ 2-3 executives they know and challenge them to do the same.
The campaign has been launched by McKinsey & Co. consultant Laura McGee and her colleague Megan Anderson. Ms. McGee said the public challenge works similarly to the popular “ice bucket challenge” campaign, but with a goal to help more women find powerful sponsors who will support their advancement into senior leadership roles.
Most sponsors choose women within their own company or industry, where they have the ability to make a meaningful impact in their careers, she said.
The campaign aims to highlight the critical differences between mentoring and sponsorship, she said. Leaders are urged to go beyond mentoring and offer advice and support to women about their careers. Sponsors are not required to do specific things, but they typically help women by making introductions, inviting them to work on key assignments and championing them for promotion.
“A sponsor will really stick their neck out and create opportunities – this is somebody who is personally committed to advancing your career, “MS. McGee said.
Mark Wiseman, senior managing partner at global investment firm BlackRock Inc., Ms. McGee’s sponsor in the program, said many top executives have benefited from sponsorship earlier in their careers, but those relationships have been socially easier for senior men to navigate with other men.
“The reality, especially in the investment industry, is that men have tended to have better sponsorship in their careers than women because it’s generally comfortable for men to sponsor other men, rather than for men to sponsor women,” he said.
Frank Vettese, chief executive officer of Deloitte Canada and a sponsor in the program, said women need sponsors not just talking to them about their careers but “leaning in on an unprecedented scale, putting their personal leadership on the line.”
“Research shows that women are over-mentored and under-sponsored,” he said in a statement.
The #GoSponsorHer hashtag on Twitter and Facebook reads like a who’s who of executives and politicians in Canada.
The names include bigwigs such as Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce chief executive officer Victor Dodig, Microsoft Canada president Janet Kennedy, McKinsey global head Dominic Barton, among others.
Mr. Wiseman said the social-media aspect of the program is a simple way to spread the word about sponsorship to more senior people in business. He said that he is participating because the investment industry has too few women in top roles and needs to draw the best talent from the widest pool of candidates.
“Quite simply, the industry has done a terrible job of that to date, and if we can crack that code, we’ll be better investors and put up better results,” he said.
“It’s really bad, and has been despite a number of policy and corporate changes over the past 20 or 30 years – the pipeline is not getting better,” Ms. McGee said. “Something is not working.”
She said a sponsorship relationship should be reciprocal and the women involved should be willing to support their sponsors’ goals.
“As a sponsoree, you might prioritize that sponsor’s projects, you deliver for them, you help them build a cadre of supporters. You use your talents to help them, just as you would a good friend.”