Power of sponsorships
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Professional Insights

Power of sponsorships

Nov 10, 2022 · 3 min read

CPAs’ career opportunities vary and are endless. However, women can be overlooked for promotions. The 2022 McKinsey & Company and Lean In's Women in the Workplace report revealed that for every 100 men promoted, 87 women are promoted. And that ratio can be even more lopsided: Only 82 are women of color and 75 are Latina women.

Sponsoring and advocating for a colleague in your organization is key to career growth and achieving greater gender equity within leadership roles.

Brian Kreischer and Candy Vaughn, both firm partners with Frank, Rimerman + Co. LLP, have experienced how sponsorship leads to strategic growth. In “The Importance of Sponsorship in Women’s Career Trajectories” webcast, they share their insights along with Jacquelyn H. Tracy, CPA, CGMA, Partner, Mandel & Tracy, LLC and former chair of the AICPA®Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee.

Tracy defines a sponsor as someone who talks about you to fellow leaders, highlighting your abilities and work ethic as ideal for an open position, project or assignment. A mentor, on the other hand, is someone who talks with you about your goals to help you navigate the workplace or a particular experience. And a coach talks to you to unlock your personal and professional potential in an empowering way.

A sponsor can include components of a mentor and a coach. But to sponsor someone, you spend social capital for the advancement of, or access to, opportunities. You advocate for your colleague in critical internal conversations and seek out opportunities for greater visibility, responsibility and stretch assignments for the protégé.

In a sponsoring relationship, the sponsor intentionally helps the individual gain visibility for assignments, promotions or positions.

Being a sponsor is time well spent

Sponsorships can happen organically and intentionally. For example, you may have observed that a colleague excels at their job, and you think they deserve recognition. The next step, as a leader, is to initiate conversation with your colleague about their career goals and see if there’s a sponsorship opportunity.

Another approach could be to proactively advocate on behalf of the colleague when they are not in the room, to applaud them in a situation where they cannot speak on their own behalf, and then encourage follow-up with them directly.

If you’d like to become a sponsor, you’ll want to consider your availability, as sponsorships take time. And, as far as political capital goes, sponsoring a person could feel a bit risky as you’ll be giving your “stamp of approval.”

If someone you don't know well approaches you, take the time you need to gather information about their professional history and work ethic before saying “yes” to sponsorship. If you’ve known the person for years and have a solid working relationship, you may feel that there’s no risk to advocating on their behalf.

Your time and reputation are valuable — as are the time and reputation of the person you sponsor — so you’ll need to get to know one another to see if the sponsorship is a good fit. Sponsors and protégés may not necessarily need to have similar backgrounds or personalities, but they should have the potential to build a trusting relationship.

Career development on a personal level

As you meet with the person, be sure to actively listen — you don’t want to presume to know what’s best. Further, listening without judgment builds trust and will effectively shape the objective of the sponsorship.

Candy Vaughn, CPA, CFE, and partner, Frank, Rimerman + Co., LLP shared that her sponsor, Brian Kreischer, CPA, and partner, Frank, Rimerman + Co., LLP “helped me visualize my future.”

You could begin the sponsorship by asking simple and direct questions, such as:

  • What type of advocate do you think would be best for you?

  • What are your short- and long-term professional goals?

  • Do you feel you are well positioned to achieve them? If not, why not?

Asking these questions will facilitate the process of ensuring that you are the best person to match with the protégé as their sponsor. You can also learn the specific areas where support may be needed.

Sponsorships are way to pay it forward

Many of us have had someone guide us throughout our careers. If you’ve received personalized support in your professional development, why not do the same?

If you’d like to implement sponsorships and other diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives at your organization, thesponsorship success toolkit and other DEI resources are readily available.

At AICPA & CIMA, together as the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants we are dedicated to our mission to uphold DEI, which includes initiatives focused on supporting women in the profession. Please contact Mandy Gallagher, lead manager — Diversity & Inclusion, Women’s Initiatives, with any questions.

#AICPAWomenLead #AICPAdiversity aicpa.org/diversity

Ashlin Minogue

Ashlin Minogue is a senior content writer at AICPA & CIMA, together as the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants.

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