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#GoSponsorHer challenges people to take gender parity into their own hands

Waves of high-ranking professionals are 'sticking their necks out' for proteges in a bid to shake up who gets a seat at tables where decisions are made.

Jacqueline Cooper and Laura Sniderman are two of the many women who have jumped on board the #GoSponsorHer challenge.

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Jacqueline Cooper and Laura Sniderman are two of the many women who have jumped on board the #GoSponsorHer challenge.

Megan Anderson and Laura McGee were thousands of feet in the air when they dreamed of a way to elevate the careers of women.

By the time the plane landed, the Toronto friends and McKinsey & Co. employees devised Go Sponsor Her, a growing movement encouraging executives, leaders and business directors to advocate for women to be promoted to senior roles.

The premise is simple – high-ranking professionals commit to championing a woman and publicly declare their support for her on social media with the #GoSponsorHer hashtag, and challenge others in positions of power to follow suit.

Backed by McKinsey, Deloitte, and Catalyst, the project is meant to build a pipeline of highly-qualified females to combat the underrepresentation of women in boardrooms and leadership roles.

Metro’s recent Women on Boards series revealed women only account for 13 per cent of board members of businesses listed on the TSX, hold only four per cent of CEO jobs at S&P 500 companies and are two to three times less likely than a man to be in a senior management position.

“We wanted to do something to move the needle quickly because women are over-mentored, but undersponsored,” Anderson said, adding men are 46 per cent more likely to be championed.

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Mentors give advice, but sponsors – her project's focus – take it a step further by “sticking their necks out” for a protege.

“They’ll talk about the person to their network, make connections for them and help them find opportunities,” she explained.

The dozens how have committed to doing so include activist Craig Kielburger, Dragons’ Den star Michele Romanow, media maven Kirstine Stewart, banking head Jennifer Tory and Anderson’s long-time sponsor, McKinsey & Co.’s Bruce Simpson.

Simpson stepped up because he was mentored by three women and wants to “pay it forward.”

“It’s fabulous to see the impact of my support in helping them advance their careers,” he said. “The cause and effect is tangible . . . We just need to do more of this and build up momentum!”

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