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  • staceyong8

On sponsorship, mentorship, allyship, being, belonging, bridging and thank you to my mentors

I think it was three weeks into my starting at PwC - as a baby consultant - brand new to the firm and to consulting that I went to speak to Frances Maguire, senior partner, staunch feminist, ally and all-around brilliant woman. Frances at the time was the government account lead for the firm. She made partner I think in the 90s in PwC as one of the few female partners, and the only gay female partner. So RESPECT.

I was standing in the doorway while Frances had her back to me and was tapping away on the computer. I gave her my spiel about who I am and the work that I had done (all the time while her back was to me) feeling nervous and unsure of myself and asked her advice about what I should do to be successful at the firm. Like, what should I learn, what jobs should I target, which partners should I meet. Without turning her back she said (in the typical Frances growl) “you don’t need to do anything, what you need is opportunity”. And me as a baby consultant heard the TRUTH of that. And that’s what the sponsors and mentors that I’ve had during my time at PwC did for me. This is real leadership.

Sponsors to me hold that in-between space. They occupy space that you want to be in, and remember what it felt like to be in your space. They have one foot in both spaces and then they bridge the two, finding opportunities and very practical actions to move from one space to another. They see your insecurities and doubts about whether you’re good enough to move to the next space and hold you with care and love and help you overcome those doubts. Even more than that, the best ones challenge you to go even further than your small dreams and leapfrog over the top.

Thank you to Chris Matthews, David Sacks, Julie McKay, Mike Sum, James van Smeerdijk, and Zac Hatzantonis who gave me fantastic opportunities and the countless other wonderful PwC people who spoke about me positively in the spaces and rooms that I wasn't a part of.

Then there are of course, the unscrupulous ones that I’ve seen, the ones that see someone’s insecurities and doubts and take advantage of that, to not promote, to not increase pay, to not provide opportunity. They see those insecurities and doubts (or maybe are completely oblivious to them tbh) and take credit for their work and their labour. They use their power to perpetuate power differentials. Avoid these people! Check out teams and see if they have a track record of creating new leaders and new businesses.

Last week, I had an amazing conversation with an elder in the space of antiracism, multiculturalism and feminism. And she demonstrated to me what a true ally, what a sponsor looks like. Within one conversation, she made space for me to grow into my potential. She opened her networks and work and opportunities. This is what I try to do, what I hope to do for others - particularly women of colour. Bridge the spaces between where they want to be and where they are.

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