What’s the Secret to Effective Sponsorship Programs? Women in Power.

October 14, 2019

When international law firm Dechert got serious about enacting new policies to help more women advance up the ladder, they focused on more equitable parental leave, addressing implicit bias and establishing a more robust sponsorship program, according to a recent American Lawyer piece.

This last initiative, the Sponsorship and Sustained Support program, has been particularly successful since it was launched in 2015, according to the firm’s deputy chair for diversity. “In the five years before the program’s start, women benefited from 18% of the partnership promotions; since its start the figure is up to 26%.”

That is a heartening statistic, and it’s worth digging a little deeper to think about why sponsorship is working. At the very end of the piece, almost in passing, we learn that high-profile lateral hire Sheila Birnbaum, the “Queen of Toxic Torts,” who joined Dechert from Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan last May, is known to carve out time to answer the questions of young women associates. And she isn’t the only one.

It’s not enough just to have an innovative policy with laudable goals for women’s advancement. Your firm also needs actual women in leadership who are empowered to lead in meaningful ways and can form connections with women on the way up.

And when those leaders devote time to mentorship, their firms need to show how much they value this contribution. Not only does it help you keep the promises you made to support your recruits in their careers, but it also plays a crucial role in answering the growing demand from clients to show real progress on diversity. Meaningful mentorship and sponsorship are directly tied to your bottom line.

As marketers and communicators, we can help highlight and support these women leaders to be sure their contributions are rewarded and celebrated. It’s just one more way that diversity and smart communication strategy go hand in hand.