Lead the way: Sponsoring women to help accelerate their career growth
Christian Lynn·Mar 27, 2024

Lead the way: Sponsoring women to help accelerate their career growth

Christian Lynn
Staff Writer
Mar 27, 2024 · 6 min read
Sponsoring women to help accelerate their career growth | TomTom Newsroom

Every single one of us dreams about what they would like to achieve in their career. But not all of us have the opportunities to take the necessary steps towards those dreams. TomTom wants to present those doorways of opportunity to female TomTom’ers with its new Sponsorship Program.

The first question that has probably popped up for the uninitiated is: what is a sponsor? How does it differ from a mentor? Well, in a nutshell, a mentor talks to you. They guide you on the best ways of reaching your targets. A sponsor, on the other hand, talks about you. After getting an idea of the future a TomTom’er envisions for themselves, a sponsor will amplify their voice so the right people are listening.

This is the foundation for TomTom’s Sponsorship Program. To dive a little deeper, learning why sponsorship matters and how it can encourage women to find and take the right opportunities, I spoke to two TomTom’ers who were sponsored – Nusrath Hussain, Test Engineering Manager, and Ana Lukic, Software Engineering Manager – and two sponsors – Eszter Pattantyus, SVP Maps, and Alain De Taeye, Leader of Maps and Management Board member.

Why sponsorship matters

We all benefit from having women in senior positions. Alain De Taeye agrees: “A healthy balance in gender distribution is not only normal, it makes your company healthier and more performant. There are many studies that indicate this.”

TomTom itself is aiming for increased female representation within senior management positions – 20% as a “short-term target,” Alain told us. Then, it’s just a matter of getting there, and as Alain admits, “these things don’t just happen,” which is why TomTom’s Sponsorship Program is so important in giving the company’s women the boost they need to accelerate their careers. And help us to address the gender imbalance in upper leadership.

But does it work? Eszter Pattantyus refers to a Forbes article on sponsorship, telling us that “sponsored men and women feel that they are progressing faster in their careers than their unsponsored peers.”

I’ve had people looking out for my best interests and growth throughout my career. Because I know how impactful a sponsor can be, I now find it super important and rewarding to be a sponsor. Sponsors act, promote, remove barriers. Most importantly, sponsors help others develop their leadership skills.

Eszter Pattantyus

SVP Maps

Therefore, having a sponsor is different from having a representative. Unlike a lawyer who speaks entirely on your behalf, a sponsor will give your voice the added clarity it needs to reach the right ears. Plus, there’s the relationship between the sponsor and the sponsored TomTom’er, which can “sometimes even last decades,” says Eszter, helping women get a foot in the door of a senior leadership team, board of directors, etc.

So, who should be a sponsor? Alain starts by underlining a key point – “It does not actually matter whether we have male or female sponsors.” However, both Alain and Eszter emphasize the importance of male allyship in this situation – “It’s good for men to better understand and support women in their career to achieve a better gender balance.” Because it is within everybody’s interests to see more women in senior positions, particularly TomTom’s. If we’re going to map the world, we want our TomTom’ers to reflect and represent the diversity of that world.

What sponsorship looks like

Nusrath and Ana shared a complete picture of what it’s like to be sponsored. Nusrath opens up about being new to TomTom. She joined the program as it was “an opportunity to connect to a VP/Director outside my organization [...] talking me up across different platforms, increase my visibility and provide a great boost to my network.”

Nusrath gives us examples of projects that her sponsor helped get her involved in, aiding in the progression toward a promotion. This included the launch of TomTom Orbis Maps on AmiGO, the geolocation company’s flagship product. Nusrath had the opportunity to define the test strategy, working closely with senior vice presidents, engineering managers and more.

Ultimately, this all led to her promotion, which Nusrath’s sponsor actively encouraged. Now, Nusrath works directly with her sponsor – the relationship has grown naturally, using their collaborative experience to great effect.

This is what the Sponsorship Program is all about. Fellow sponsored TomTom’er Ana Lukic told us that the Program helped her “recognize that there are multiple paths to success that I can pursue.” Our role is to support women in their ambitions, listening and sponsoring them as a means of finding the best way to reach those ambitions together.

TomTom Sponsorship Program - 2023 participantsTomTom'ers who participated in the Sponsorship Program pilot in 2023.

Why you should consider being sponsored (or being a sponsor)

Amplifying women’s voices is more important than ever. Nusrath tells us that “as per statistics, women suffer more with imposter syndrome than men. Societal barriers and stereotypes can often cause others to second-guess their abilities, compounding and reinforcing those negative self-beliefs.”

Sponsorship programs like TomTom’s are a powerful way of advocating for women’s careers in a way that is supportive and enabling. To get the right people into the right places within the company.

If you feel like you’re not able to take a significant step forward or won’t be heard, look out for sponsorship opportunities. Work with a leader to turn you into a leader, so you can use your voice to help shape the future of the company.

If you once faced hurdles in your development and you can relate to the challenges others may face, become a sponsor. Show your colleagues what directions they can take, whether that be towards a more senior position, or in a different team/unit entirely and become the role model you perhaps didn’t have before.

Change is not going to come about naturally. We need to act. Sponsorship could be a start, leveling the playing field between men and women in the workplace. Or, as Alain puts it, " It's just taking care of and making sure that you get the best out of your people, male and female."

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