The other day I received an invitation to a CLE that started my blood simmering and it eventually reached the point of a full boil the other day.
CLE is short for continuing legal education. To keep my law licenses (I’m licensed in three states, practicing actively in two) I have to attend a certain number of hours of these classes periodically. Normally they are pretty bland. The most exciting one I’d seen recently was Fundamental Concepts in Drafting Contracts. It includes covering the differences between “shall, will, and must.” I totally geek out over that stuff. See you there fellow contract geeks!
Then came this. Crown passed.
“Breakfast for Champions: Celebrating Men Who Sponsor Women”
Sponsorship is a form of advocacy and support that is essential for lawyers – especially women lawyers – to advance into partnership and leadership. Most sponsors are men but few men sponsor women. Some men do sponsor women – and with guidance and encouragement, many more men could do it. If you are a woman who has enjoyed the sponsorship of a man, this program is an opportunity to honor him. If you are a man or woman who wants to learn more about sponsorship, this program will give you the information and tools you need to be a sponsor or find one.
- Honor men who have successfully sponsored women
- Distinguish sponsorship from mentorship
- Explain how women can find effective sponsors
- Give men role models, tools and concrete steps for sponsoring women
I acknowledge it says “If you are a man or a woman who wants to learn more about sponsorship, this program will give you the information and tools you need to be a sponsor or find one.” It’s not saying only men can be sponsors and the CLE alone would not have resulted in a blog. However, it was certainly the catalyst. Why do men need to be celebrated for sponsoring women? That’s not cause for celebration. That’s just being professional and nondiscriminatory.
All it takes to understand why I was rubbed the wrong way is to flip this from a gender majority sponsoring a gender minority to a racial majority sponsoring a racial minority.
Take the below line, substitute a majority/minority race in the place of the words “man” and “woman” and tell me that’s not offensive. If it is, then you should understand perfectly my level of frustration.
“If you are a woman who has enjoyed the sponsorship of a man, this program is an opportunity to honor him.”
Yes. Women are minorities. True, there are few of us that are in a sponsorship position. Absolutely, more men should be sponsoring women. But branding them champions just for not being prejudicial? No. Not cool.
After seeing that I went poking around and learned I must be pretty dang naive. This CLE was on the more friendly end of the spectrum.
Consider “The Answer to Women’s Advancement: Male Sponsors” from Forbes.
“For years, society has been expecting women, who themselves are fighting for a seat at the table while simultaneously juggling family obligations, to push for the advancement of other women. This approach is not working because it expects too much from already-overburdened women. Instead, women should look to men, who hold the vast majority of corporate power, to become advocates for their advancement, and men should embrace that role.”
In addition to having the cards stacked against them on a daily basis at work, these women often have the majority of household and childcare responsibilities as well. An additional responsibility of sponsorship may simply be asking too much. As Sallie Krawcheck put it, “how many darn things can a person do at the end of the day?….To truly advance women must look to men for sponsorship.”
What is this, the 1950’s? Because I get the impression from this article the author believes us womenfolk are so busy cooking, cleaning, and raising those children we can’t possibly shoulder as much responsibility as a man at work. And if we are so much busier with home responsibilities and dealing with “cards stacked” against us at work then I’ll let the below timely Tweet speak for me.
It gets even better than the Forbes article. Are you ready? Check out “Why Typical Career Advice Doesn’t Work for Women.”
“Promoting women could hurt your career—if you’re female. Senior women who help female employees advance are more likely to get negative evaluations from their bosses, a recent study of hundreds of company executives shows.”
“Sponsorship, which often involves an older, married male spending one-on-one time, often off site and after hours, with a younger, unmarried female, can look like an affair,” the report said. “If the woman is subsequently promoted, her achievement will be undermined by office gossip that she earned it illicitly.”
And the coup de grace.
“In other words, ladies, career success is yours to grab. Just know that doing so might hurt your career.”
Don’t rely on a woman to help you advance; doing so could ding her career. You’ve got to turn to a man but be warned, gossip is more important than what you achieved. This article is from August 2014!! This mentality is truly out there!
I am a Feminist. The dreaded F word. The F word that in so many people’s minds equals the B word.
Let me tell you what it means.
It means I believe women should have the same political, economic, cultural and social rights as a man.
It means I don’t think a man deserves an extra pat on the back or more of an award for advancing a woman than a female deserves for doing the same thing.
It means I believe women can take on the same responsibilities as a man and shouldn’t have to work harder than a man to prove she’s capable because of some imaginary disadvantage that comes with being born female.
It means I think a woman shouldn’t let office gossip cost career advancement. If gossip is a woman’s overriding concern in making business decisions than she doesn’t belong in a senior position to begin with.
It means if only one article from 2014 from a respected publication is out there saying differently than that is one article too many.