Getting Black Women to the C-Suite: Sponsorship Can Make a Difference - Stephanie Bradley Smith in New Thinking

Talking Trends
3 min readMay 20, 2023


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I recently wrote an article that was published in New Thinking, Getting Black Women to the C-Suite: Sponsorship Can Make a Difference. The article emphasizes the importance of sponsorship in promoting Black women to C-suite positions, highlighting its transformative impact in driving diversity and inclusion. By actively championing talented Black women, organizations can break barriers, foster representation, and benefit from diverse perspectives in leadership roles.

Here are some excerpts from the article —

In the pursuit of fostering diversity and inclusion in corporate leadership, a powerful strategy emerges: leveraging sponsorship to elevate Black women to the C-suite. This approach, elucidated in the article “Getting Black Women to the C-suite: Sponsorship Can Make a Difference,” highlights the significance of sponsorship in driving meaningful change within organizations.

Underscoring the fact that despite progress, Black women continue to face obstacles on their path to senior leadership positions. However, sponsorship has emerged as a game-changer, offering crucial support and advocacy. Unlike mentorship, which primarily provides guidance and advice, sponsorship actively promotes career advancement by utilizing influential networks and endorsing high-potential individuals.

Recognizing the transformative potential of sponsorship, the article emphasizes the need for organizations to cultivate a culture that encourages and facilitates sponsorship relationships. It calls for senior leaders to proactively seek out talented Black women and champion their professional growth. By assuming a sponsorship role, leaders can open doors to opportunities, amplify voices that have been historically marginalized, and pave the way for representation at the highest levels of decision-making.

The article further highlights the reciprocal nature of sponsorship. While sponsors have the power to uplift and empower, they also benefit from diverse perspectives and fresh insights brought by Black women leaders. By diversifying their leadership teams, organizations gain a competitive edge, improved innovation, and enhanced cultural sensitivity.

The most effective sponsorship tends to occur organically between sponsors and protégés. I advocate for more thoughtfulness and intentionality by those in charge, largely white males, in terms of who they select for sponsorship. Instead of sponsoring in their own image, they must widen their lens or scope to be more inclusive. This process requires clear goals, regular communication, and the provision of necessary resources. Moreover, establishing accountability mechanisms and tracking the progress of sponsored individuals can ensure the sustained impact of sponsorship initiatives.

In conclusion, the article promotes sponsorship as a powerful catalyst for advancing Black women to the C-suite. By creating an ecosystem of sponsorship within organizations, senior leaders can actively dismantle barriers and contribute to a more equitable and inclusive corporate landscape. Through this collaborative effort, we can unlock Black women's immense potential and brilliance, leading to greater representation and transformative leadership across industries.

Read the original article here.

Connect with Stephanie on LinkedIn.


Stephanie Bradley Smith is a business executive who specializes in the field of Human Resources and believes that the most crucial ingredient to success is talent. She is vice president and chief human resources officer at DePaul University, where she is also an adjunct business professor. She is a Public Voices Fellow with The OpEd Project.“You may have a genius idea, but without people willing and able to bring it to fruition, you’ll never achieve your goals.” Her areas of expertise are executive succession, leadership development, and organizational effectiveness.



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