Sponsorship Programs: Advancing Underrepresented Talent in Leadership

Sponsorship programs are powerful tools for driving inclusion in leadership. This proactive approach goes beyond mentoring and actively champions the advancement of underrepresented talent.  

“Either a formalized or an informal program, it tends to create pipelines for organizations when they have good sponsorship – either people with that mindset or just in the room,” says Dr. Nakeisha Lewis, Associate Dean of Student Success at the Knauss School of Business at the University of San Diego and member of The PhD Project. “Ideally, the research would also tell us that in many cases without a sponsor, some of those folks from underrepresented communities are less likely to be brought up in those conversations.” 

Formal sponsorship programs are structured, organized initiatives established by a company. Fair360’s 2023 Top 10 Companies for Diversity have formal sponsorship programs, compared to 51% of all companies participating in the Top 50 survey. Meanwhile, 50% of the Top 10 companies offer informal programs compared to 37% of all companies. Informal sponsorship programs are connections that develop organically between individuals in a professional setting. 

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