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tasks like getting coffee or taking care of the office environment . To personal assistants , who might find some of those tasks unavoidable , I emphasized that they could talk to me about any issues in the workplace , that their roles were critical , and that they should be treated with respect . The lunches were essential , providing a dedicated space to share challenges and successes . Coming together as a group made people realize that their problems weren ’ t just specific to them , but in fact were collective obstacles . All of this vastly improved the flow of information , and relieved tension and anxiety . It reassured us that though our jobs were challenging , we were not alone . In doing so , I hope it lowered the attrition rate of women working at my company — rates that are , across all corporate jobs , stubbornly higher for women than men , especially women of color .
My own daughter has arrived to a workplace that has not changed nearly as much as I had hoped — although 40 % of Big Four accounting firm employees are women , they make up only 19 % of audit partners . Only one in five C-suite members is a woman , and they are still less likely than their male peers to report that there are equal opportunities for advancement .
So , what are women in the workplace to do , when research shows that we ’ re penalized for trying to lift each other up ? The antidote to being penalized for sponsoring women may just be to do it more — and to do it vocally , loudly , and proudly — until we ’ re able to change perceptions . There are massive benefits for the individual and the organization when women support each other .
The advantages of sponsorship for protégés may be clear , such as access to opportunities and having their achievements brought to the attention of senior management , but sponsors gain as well , by becoming known as cultivators of talent and as leaders . Importantly , organizations that welcome such sponsorship benefit too — creating a culture of support , and where talent is recognized and rewarded for all employees .
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Sponsorship ( which involves connecting a protégé with opportunities and contacts and advocating on their behalf , as opposed to the more advice-focused role of mentorship ) is also an excellent way for men to be allies at work .
But there ’ s still so much work that needs to be done . I ’ m thrilled by the rise of women ’ s organizations like Sallie Krawchek ’ s Ellevate Network , a professional network of women supporting each other across companies to change the culture of business at large . ( I ’ m especially fond of it because it began as “ 85 Broads ,” a network of Goldman alumnae that drew its name from the old GS headquarters address before Krawcheck , a Merrill alumna , bought and expanded it .) That network spawned a sibling , Ellevest , an investment firm focused on women and companies that advance women . Other ventures include Dee Poku- Spalding ’ s WIE networks ( Women Inspiration and Enterprise ), a leadership network whose mission is to support women in their career ambitions by providing real world learning via access to established business leaders . I am attempting to make my own dent in this area , having endowed the McNulty Institute for Women ’ s Leadership at my alma mater , Villanova , which supports new research and leadership development opportunities for women .
These are wonderful supplements , but they can ’ t replace the benefits of and the necessity for connections among women inside a company — at and across all levels . It reduces the feeling of competition for an imaginary quota at the top . It helps other women realize , “ Oh , it ’ s not just me ” — a revelation that can change the course of a women ’ s career . It ’ s also an indispensable way of identifying bad actors and systemic problems within the company . It need not be a massive program , and you don ’ t need to overthink it — in fact , there ’ s a healthy debate about affinity groups run from the top down . Whether you are a first-year employee or a manager , just reach out and make those connections . I ’ m guessing you ’ ll find that the return on investment on the cost of a group lunch will be staggering .
Anne Welsh McNulty is the co-founder and managing partner of JBK Partners , with businesses including investment management and a private philanthropy , the McNulty Foundation , which focuses on leadership development and social change . Previously , Anne was a Managing Director of Goldman Sachs and a senior executive of the Goldman Sachs Hedge Fund Strategies Group .
Anne Welsh McNulty Goldman Sachs Hedge Fund New York May 2020