For Women’s History Month, we’re sharing stories from the StreetWise Community about how we’re working together to close the opportunity gap women face in corporate America.
by Shari Krull, Chief Executive Officer, StreetWise Partners
March 21st, 2023
I first learned about the pay gap when I was 11 years old. My mother was earning less than her male counterparts and I could not understand why. 35 years later I am disappointed that we are still having the same conversation.
Women still face pay inequities, earning less than men for doing the same job – which, over a lifetime, can translate to a loss of $1 million or more for Latinas, Native, and Black women. There continues to be a representation gap in leadership – one study shows that women hold only 32% of leadership positions worldwide. And women continue to be held back in their careers due to not only child rearing and other caregiving responsibilities, but also unpaid domestic labor responsibilities.
There is a real need to drive structural equity across the board – gender equity, racial equity, health equity, and economic equity. These challenges can feel overwhelming at times and I often have individuals approach me and ask: What can I do to help advance the cause?
This is where mentorship and sponsorship come in.
Sharing the ladder through mentorship
I believe that senior women have an obligation to share their ladder and help lift up the rising stars behind them. Research has proven that mentoring advances women’s careers through confidence building, exposure, resource sharing, and role modeling:
Yet, despite all these benefits, there’s still a mentorship gap. A global study from DDI World found that 63% of women have never had a formal mentor and just over half (56%) of companies have a formal program for mentoring.
There are a few reasons for this gap. First, many female mentors believe that the time commitment is too significant. Second, women often don’t know how to ask for mentorship. Third, without the reliability of equal pay for equal work, and far fewer opportunities to reach senior leadership levels, the workplace dynamic can set women up to compete with one another.
This has to change. Mentors need to realize that even a couple hours of a week can be very impactful. For those in a professional environment looking for a mentor, it can be as simple as approaching a colleague and saying, “I admire your work and would like the opportunity to learn from you; would you be willing to meet with me?” For those who don’t have access to those relationships, there are other organizations like StreetWise available to help create those introductions and connections.
Sponsorship is a game changer
Mentorship and sponsorship are separate but equally important. According to Together.com, mentorship provides advice, guidance, and a sounding board for mentees. Sponsorship is a relationship with a more senior employee who has authority or influence and uses this advantage to help further another individual’s career. The pairing of mentorship and sponsorship can be a game changer.
According to Payscale: “For women, particularly women of color, having someone in a position of power who will go to the mat for you can be an effective way to combat systemic bias and break through the glass ceiling to positions of power and higher pay.”
On top of that, having a sponsor can translate to higher pay, a “sponsorship premium” as Payscale calls it. Their data show that women with a sponsor are paid 10.2% more; Hispanic women with a sponsor earn 6.1% more than Hispanic women without one; and Black women with a sponsor earn 5.1% more than black women without one.
At StreetWise, our mentees and job seekers consistently talk about the impact of their mentors making introductions, inviting them to professional events, and even simply saying their name in a room – all of which contributes to more opportunities and a seat at the proverbial table.
Ready to be a mentor or find a mentor?
As Women’s History Month comes to an end and we look ahead to National Volunteer Month, this is a great time to take tangible action that will make a difference. StreetWise is currently seeking volunteer mentors in New York and D.C. We’d love to have you as part of our community! Sign up to learn more today.