Articles & Publications

By Kayla Turo |
Published: April 30, 2014

Research from Catalyst suggests that on-the-job experiences account for 70 percent of the most valuable career development tools for employees, compared to networking and mentoring (20 percent) and formal programs (10 percent. These on-the-job experiences include stretch assignments, or challenging projects in which an employee must develop new skills and improve their capabilities in order to be successful. Stretch assignments not only prepare employees for future managerial roles, they highlight high potentials and put them on the map for leadership consideration. According to the Catalyst report “Good Intentions, Imperfect Execution?”, of the high potentials they questioned, 62 percent claimed that obtaining stretch assignments was most favoring to their careers above any other factor.

However, the most interesting finding of the report is that men were more likely to land high-profile assignments than women, were staffed with three times as many employees as women, on projects with budgets twice the size of women’s project budgets.

Sponsorship is a key factor in securing stretch assignments
Lack of sponsorship is a crucial factor that could be preventing women from attaining high-profile assignments, and ultimately advancing to executive board positions, which stems from a societal fear of rumor and scandal. According to Sylvia Ann Hewett in an article published on the HBR Blog Network, “Women suffer a disproportionate amount of damage in the fallout from illicit relationships between a male boss and a female subordinate.” The fear of even be suspected of an improper relationship prevents 64 percent of executive men and 50 percent of junior females from seeking out private encounters, let alone a sponsorship relationship.

Unwillingness to ask for help could also be a culprit here. “Women fear rejection more than men in this area. They often feel it’s ‘pushy’ to ask [for help] as though they are saying I can’t do it myself,” said Judith Glaser, CEO of Benchmark Communications, Inc. and Chairman of The Creating WE Institute. Understanding that gaining sponsorship attributes to 70 percent of your overall career advancement (by opening up opportunities for on-the-job experiences) may help alleviate some uneasiness of coming off vulnerable or incompetent. “Climbing alone is not an option anymore,” reminded Glaser.


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