Living with Resilience
I am constantly inspired by the innate power and resilience of women in Africa.
I often partner women on their journey from an unexpected ‘life setback’ towards reaching their goal, and I’m often surprised by their courageous intelligence as they navigate past unexpected obstacles to move beyond the ‘boulder’ in their paths. I’m also struck by their inner power and unwavering dual commitment, to their purpose, and the welfare of their community.
Yet the value of these silent strengths often go unnoticed or are undervalued. Their ability to navigate around seemingly impossible obstacles without losing sight of their humanity and purpose does not always help them move upward with their careers.
Why do their careers stall?
A common reason why women begin to lose forward momentum is especially evident as they attempt to move up the career ladder to an executive position.
A research paper from GIBS found that the most common thing men asked for was ‘access to ‘power’ contacts, a network of key players to help sponsor or propel their careers towards success’. This suggests that these men are already getting adequate mentor-coaching and have role models to guide them. Now they are looking to identify suitable sponsorship opportunities and networks that can propel their careers onward and up.
My research paper at Wits Business School asked women what they most needed to support them in their careers, the most common request was ‘to be told what they could do differently or better’, to help them improve their performance.
More women today are receiving mentoring or attend courses that prepare them to transition upwards – but most often this stops at a junior executive level. The number of successful role models is rapidly growing but this newly found support exists in a bubble, there is no foundation to sustain it yet.
It will take time for this to become the normal way we do things. This means that networking and sponsors for women, especially in Africa, exists on very thin ground.
A wider gap for women
Effective networks and sponsorship opportunities seem to be more difficult for women to access than men. ‘While women’s access to effective sponsorship is improving, today, they still do not have the easy access to effective networks or role models that men do.’
[Photo: Hero Images /Getty Images]
An interesting article from Fast Company suggests that women are more easily given expert mentors than the support of a career sponsor, one that can make a significant difference to their career paths.
About sponsorship for women
As the Harvard Business Review research revealed, ‘both men and women undervalue or fail to nurture a network of professional sponsors. Yet women are 54% less likely than men to have a sponsor.’
We respond to this challenge with coordinated support for usually 6 months to a year. The first phase, begins with business or executive coaching which is linked to an expert mentor in the field. When the candidate is ready to transition up the career pipeline, she will have been exposed to suitable networks and sponsors in her field. And, to ensure sustainability, she will receive ongoing support for at least the next six months, as she transitions into her new role and career path.
Do you have some expertise, support, or are willing to sponsor a women in your field? If so, please join our Resilient Women in Africa initiative let us know how you can contribute.