Why Female Engineers Need SponsorsFeatured

Let me share the story of Maya, a colleague and a talented software engineer. Despite her expertise, she struggled to move up the ladder. It wasn't until she found a sponsor, a senior leader who recognized her potential, that her career transformed. With her sponsor's advocacy, Maya landed lead roles on major projects and gained visibility among the company's top executives. This is the power of sponsorship – it opens doors that hard work and talent alone might not.

According to a Coqual report, only 8% of people of color have a sponsor, compared to 13% of their Caucasian counterparts. Yet, those with sponsors are more satisfied with their rate of advancement. This disparity highlights the untapped potential of sponsorship in leveling the playing field.

Sponsorship goes beyond mentorship. It's about having someone in your corner who not only advises you but actively advocates for you. In her insightful TED Talk, Carla Harris emphasizes that a sponsor is someone who speaks on your behalf in those top-level, closed-door meetings you're not a part of yet. This advocacy is crucial, especially in tech, where women are underrepresented in leadership roles.

Finding Your Sponsor:

  • Identify Potential Sponsors: Look for leaders who recognize your potential and have a track record of supporting others. They should be well-connected and respected within your organization.
  • Showcase Your Value: Make your work visible. Take on high-impact projects and ensure potential sponsors notice your achievements.
  • Build a Relationship: Engage with potential sponsors. Ask for advice on specific challenges or feedback on your work. This helps establish a rapport and gives them a glimpse of your potential.

Maintaining the Relationship:

Once you've secured a sponsor, it's crucial to maintain and nurture this relationship. Regular updates on your achievements and challenges keep your sponsor informed and engaged. Be proactive in seeking feedback and be open to acting on it.

Actionable Exercises:

  • Self-Assessment: Reflect on your career goals and identify areas where a sponsor could help you advance.
  • Networking Plan: Create a plan to increase your visibility within your organization. Attend events, participate in meetings, and engage in discussions where potential sponsors are present.
  • Sponsorship Meeting: Schedule a meeting with a potential sponsor. Prepare to discuss your career aspirations and how their sponsorship could be mutually beneficial.

Sponsorship is a powerful tool for female engineers in the tech industry. It provides not just guidance but active support and advocacy, essential for navigating the complexities of this field. Finding and nurturing a sponsorship relationship can unlock doors to opportunities that might otherwise remain closed.

Call to Action:

Start your journey towards finding a sponsor today. Remember, the path to success in tech is not just about what you know, but also who advocates for you. Embrace the power of sponsorship and watch your career soar.


I love the ted talk from Carla Harris! :) it really opened my mind when I watched it a number of years ago. I love this spotlight as all your advice is applicable to non-engineers as well!
Sometimes having a sponsor can be as simple as having a respected, more senior person on conference calls step in and say "she's right." Having someone show that confidence and support in front of peers and above helps to establish credibility. In the early days of my career, I was paired with another engineer for projects. He was respected and had an amazing command of technical knowledge. He was fine with me speaking up on conference calls and when I would get push-back, he would step in with those few words. That is what established my credibility in a boys-club environment. I keep that in mind to help other engineers. Sometimes the little things can make a big difference.
"Sometimes having a sponsor can be as simple as having a respected, more senior person on conference calls step in and say "she's right." " EXACTLY! thank you for saying this! that's how it starts and can really help the other person feel more confident!
Yes to that!
Thx for posting this!