by Ana Duarte McCarthy

Chief Diversity Officer

Take a moment to ponder these questions. Is there someone who always speaks favorably for you when you are not in the room? Who is genuinely interested in your career and is willing to personally invest in your success? Who readily introduces you to people of influence for your benefit and opportunity? Was there someone who came to mind besides your parents? Was it one person, several people? If your answer was not an enthusiastic “yes” to all of the above, research would suggest that you need sponsorship.

When seeking sponsorship, it is important to be strategic and to recognize that developing positive relationships is a two way street. To some extent, you can focus on creating networks of individuals and embedding that as part of your goals/accomplishments for the year, much the way that you would focus on priorities among your responsibilities.

“When seeking sponsorship, it is important to be strategic and to recognize that developing positive relationships is a two way street.”

For example, a colleague I know has three individuals that she has identified as her prospects for 2011. She has carefully researched them and has made a point of introducing herself to them at meetings, town halls, and through others who are acquaintances. She has set a goal of getting on their calendars once a quarter and has blocked those meeting times in advance so she adheres to them. Sound like work? It is. However, if you consider that research indicates that employees with sponsors are more likely to ask their managers for a stretch assignment, the impact can be significant.

Another opportunity exists for corporations to develop a culture that embraces and fosters sponsorship of talented employees. At Citi, we have embarked on this through Women Leading Citi, a pilot initiative that pairs 59 managing director-level women with male and female senior advocates for 18 months. The advocates are asked, among other goals, to provide career development feedback and to support the growth of the participant’s network and visibility within Citi. Since the inception of Women Leading Citi, 56 of the 59 have been retained, and more than half the group has had an expansion of responsibility or been promoted. While we continue to assess the impact of Women Leading Citi, we are pleased at the promise it offers supporting the advancement of women into senior management.

This article has been sponsored by:
Communicating Across Cultures

Ana Duarte McCarthy, Citi’s chief diversity officer, is responsible for the development and integration of Citi’s workforce diversity strategy for attracting diverse talent, workforce development, fostering an inclusive work environment, and ensuring management accountability.