Magazine article Working Mother

Friends in High Places

Magazine article Working Mother

Friends in High Places

Article excerpt

"I threw your name into the hat. You're going to get a call."

So said mike Fucci, a senior Deloitte executive, to Barbara Adachi. Fucci had heard about a big job opening-running the western region of Deloitte's human capital advisory services-and pitched Adachi as the right person for the post. while the idea of stepping up to manage 120 people spread across multiple offices gave Adachi butterflies, she was game for the challenge.

Adachi got the promotion and turned in the strongest financial results the region had ever seen. the job catapulted the San Francisco mom of one to even bigger things. Late last year, Adachi, 60, was named national managing director for human capital of the new York city-based professional services firm.

was Fucci just a terrific guy? Yes, and no-officially, he serves as Adachi's sponsor. Sponsorship, where a senior leader uses political clout to advocate for an employee's advancement, can do big things for talent like Adachi. in fact, it may be the missing link in moving more women into top executive roles. A recent report by the center for work-Life Policy (cwLP) notes that "the pipeline is fairly bursting with proven female talent." And yet, according to the new York city think tank, "women who are qualified to lead stall out in their careers not for lack of drive, but rather for lack of push. they simply don't have the powerful backing necessary to propel them through the straits of upper management."

women represent more than half of entry-level workers (53 percent), but these numbers dwindle as we step up the ladder. only 34 percent of senior management, 16 percent of corporate officers and 3 percent of Fortune 500 ceos are women, according to the cwLP. this remains the case despite studies showing that companies run by diversified executive teams-including women- outperform those without diversity.

it's fitting, then, that Working Mother unveils its first Best companies for women's Advancement. these ten organizations outdo their 100 Best companies peers in putting mentoring, leadership training and manager training and accountability to work to help women fulfill their potential. And, perhaps critically, in recent years, they've all added sponsorship programs to the mix. "Sponsorship can expand a woman's number of opportunities and the scale of those opportunities," explains nancy Dunn, manager of diversity and inclusiveness for Fairfield, ct- based general electric, one of this year's Best companies for women's Advancement.

American express, another winner, believes sponsorship is key to retaining highly valued mid- and senior-level leaders. Since 2008, the financial giant has reviewed cases of female senior leaders leaving the company. "we saw that the senior woman experienced a change in sponsor relationship prior to her departure- he left the company, they had a falling-out, or she moved to a part of the company where this sponsorship had no effect," says kerrie Peraino, 43, the financial firm's chief diversity officer and mom to Samantha, 12, harrison, 10, and elizabeth, 2.

SponSorS vS. MentorS

if sponsorship is so powerful, why isn't it more common? while all of our Best companies for women's Advancement offer it, only 38 percent of the much larger group of working mother 100 Best companies do. Sponsorship often gets confused with mentoring, but the two roles are different. mentors provide advice, and such relationships can be formed among peers, bosses and junior staff. By contrast, sponsors are senior executives with the clout to advance their protégés. "A sponsor pounds the table for you to get the raise, the promotion or the chance to work on a high-profile project," says Susan Bulkeley Butler, author of Women Count: A Guide to Changing the World.

while men embrace sponsorship, some women shy away from the notion that they need a "favor" or special treatment to get a promotion. "what research has shown is that excellent skills will get you far-but only so far," notes Arin reeves, president of nextions, a chicago-based consultancy specializing in leadership and inclusion training for Fortune 500 companies. …

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