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Committees Discuss Sponsorship, Mentorship to Continue Improving Sector’s Inclusion and Diversity

Members of the Council’s I&D Engagement and Human Resources committees recently met to discuss ways to formalize and strengthen mentorship and sponsorship programs, as companies seek to foster inclusive cultures and ensure underrepresented communities have a clear path to leadership.

The Council’s 2021 Diversity Study identified establishing these kinds of programs as a strategy to enhance the resilience of the sector’s future workforce, improve retention and amplify advancement opportunities.

The committees began by defining key differences between sponsorship and mentorship.

“A broad way to look at mentorship is who you’re talking with when you’re in the room,” said one participant. “A sponsor is someone who supports you when you’re not in the room. They’re speaking on your behalf and helping advance your career.”

Members said as they look at their organizations and desire to have their workforces be more reflective of the general population, they see a need to identify ways for business leaders to develop pathways to promotion and advancement for underrepresented minorities.

Some companies that have not created a formal sponsorship structure yet are finding success by giving leaders guidelines around who to include in consideration for advancement opportunities.

“We ask that at a minimum, our decision-makers include females as 25% of the candidates,” said one participant. “If the person doesn’t see a female who can advance right from the beginning, it forces them to dig a little deeper and look at someone else who has potential. Then it forces the conversation to develop that person.”

One participant said their company has a talent management process that helps them understand who the high potential individuals are within the company.

“We can be intentional about grooming those individuals, particularly as we look to increase our diversity,” said the participant.

Another said whether or not there’s a sponsorship program in place, the critical element can be as simple as making a connection.

“Once a candidate who happens to be diverse is identified, we can go outside the formal management hierarchy to play the role of a mentor for that individual,” the participant said. “It can be someone who’s outside the direct management chain who can be a strong advocate and sponsor for someone’s career, so they’re given the right set of opportunities and their names get lifted.”

One participant discussed their organization’s employee development plan (EDP), which it uses for all personnel in their succession planning.

“It’s a fantastic tool because you’re saying this person has potential,” the participant said. “In addition to that, you’re committed to making sure they have opportunities to realize that potential.”

Join the Council for a workshop on August 5 to help develop recommended actions to continue improving diversity within the energy technology and services sector. In addition, the Council offers best practice sharing and networking opportunities across all committees, providing Members with the opportunity to learn from each other’s experiences.

If you’d like to get involved with the Council’s inclusion and diversity efforts or the I&D Engagement Committee, contact Council COO Molly Determan.


Kevin Broom, Director Communications and Research, writes about the Council’s sector-specific best practices and leadership. Click here to subscribe to the Council’s newsletter, which highlights industry practices, workforce development, Council activities and more.
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