I recently read the book Knowing Your Value: Women, Money and Getting What You’re Worth, by Mika Brzezinski, co-host of Morning Joe TV news show. I rarely read books cover to cover, but this one captivated me from start to finish. It is an empowering collection of interviews and self-reflection of career women and men who have had to struggle to get paid what they are worth.
As a board member of the YWCA Hartford Region, I have learned more about the barriers associated with women’s economic empowerment. The wage gap between men and women remains significant: with women earning approximately 77.4 cents for every dollar men earn in the USA. (check out the stats on http://www.pay-equity.org/) That figure hasn’t changed much in the past 16 years.
Lack of sponsorship, mentors and networks
Towards the end of Brzezinski’s book, she makes the statement that “Lack of sponsorship, mentors and networks: this was a recurring theme in almost all my conversations on the subject of women and compensation.”
I have written about the subject of mentoring, but I have become really intrigued with the concept of sponsorship and sponsoring others in the work place. I will be dedicating a much larger article on this subject on my other web site: MarketingMotivator.net early next month.
Here’s how Brzezinski defines sponsorship:
“A sponsor: someone who is willing to use their own social capital to help pull another up the corporate ladder.”
What is social capital?
I did a quick on-line search of this term and found a graduate student named Tristan Claridge who completed a Masters thesis on social capital theory in 2004 at the University of Queensland in Australia. He created a web site – http://www.socialcapitalresearch.com/ . Broadly, his definition of social capital includes reference to social networks and the productive benefits stemming from them. That sounds like networking to me!
Let me take my stab at defining what social capital is and how to use it to create opportunities for yourself and others.
“Social capital is an intangible but powerful asset that you can create for yourself when you network and build relationships with others in your professional and personal life. The power of your social capital is enhanced when you share and exchange it with others to create mutual benefit. Keeping it all to yourself does you little good.” – Kathy McAfee, America’s Marketing Motivator
Lending Social Capital
The next time you ask someone for an introduction or for a favor, think about it like a banker. You are dealing with a different kind of capital: not money per se but relationship equity. This is tied directly to their reputation – something that has taken a very long time for them to establish and considerable effort to maintain.
- The role of the lender of social capital. You don’t have to accept every request. Assess the risk of the borrower. Understand how they plan to use your social capital and to what end. Ask tons of questions. Assess their character and integrity. Can they be trusted with your asset? Will they represent you well? Be selective and be very clear about your expectations of usage and repayment with the borrower. When you agree, act swiftly on your offer. Set up the arrangements to transfer the social capital and make the personal introductions. Monitor their progress…
- The role of the borrower of social capital. Know why you want to borrow their social capital and what you plan on doing with it. Make a convincing case that you will protect and honor their social capital and do only good with it. Keep them updated as to the status of your investment of their social capital. Pay it back (or pay it forward as agreed upfront) with plenty of interest and principle. If they decline your request, do not take it personally. Find another source or another way to get what you need.
Your Networking Goal for the Week
Reflect back on the people in your professional life who have lent you their social capital. Perhaps they sponsored you in some way that paved the way for new opportunity and growth in your career. If so, reach out this week and thank you personally. Let them know what they did for you was significant and greatly appreciated. Time now to pay it forward by helping someone else in a significant way by lending your social capital. Who in your organization or in your network has impressed you? Who do you believe is high potential talent and just needs greater access and resources to realize it? Who could you introduce them to that could create opportunities for them? I want you to think and act like a lender of social capital. Then and only then do you have the right to borrow.
About the writer: Kathy McAfee is known as America’s Marketing Motivator and is author of the book Networking Ahead for Business. In her role as Executive Presentation Coach and Professional Speaker, Kathy helps her clients to become the recognized leaders in their fields by mastering the art of high engagement presentations, more effective networking and personal marketing. Kathy is a board member of YWCA Hartford Region and an active member of Soroptimist International of the Americas. To learn more about Kathy, visit her web site MarketingMotivator.net. If you like this tip and want to receive free networking tips on a weekly basis, please sign up at NetworkingAhead.com