Directed Field Study – Week 6

Time spent this week: 9 hours, bringing the total for the semester to 33 hours.

Activities this week: This week I did a fair amount of reading, including finishing the Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor book, a highly cited article by Ibarra et al. from Harvard Business Review (2010), and I found several Catalyst reports that look relevant. I also worked to get more of the articles that I’ve read entered into the Google sheet that I shared with Jennifer before she left for France. Last week I set myself a goal of contacting Art Dean, Marilou Johnson, and Lisa Varga to start sponsoring relationships. I did email Art (and heard back!), but did not email Marilou or Lisa, the latter because I had forgotten that it was the American Library Association Annual Conference week and thus a poor time to get in touch with Lisa. I started having discussions with three of my direct reports (the three women, all of whom have been department heads for less than 2 years) about identifying and nurturing sponsors for them. I’ve also started sketching out the outlines that will be my product for Jennifer in two weeks.

Skill development this week: This week I finished Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor, which largely consisted of reading the final third of the book, titled “Pitfalls and Trip Wires.” The first chapter of the section was about the real threat for junior women and senior men that a sponsoring relationship could be misconstrued as a sexual affair. While Hewlett has some recommendations on how to avoid this, she also gives some advice on how to deal with it if it happens. I find this extremely disturbing, though perhaps that just means I’m naive. My dean is a young, good-looking man who is my little brother’s age. It hadn’t occurred to me that working lunches with him could be misread by colleagues. I wonder if it has occurred to him? The second chapter of the section was mainly aimed at a problem that people of color face: distrust based on unconscious biases (and, in some cases, conscious ones) related to differences in culture or heritage compared to the established powers-that-be.

The third chapter was about executive presence, which is a topic that I’ve seen in Hewlett’s HBR articles as well. This was one area that I feel like I’ve had some good advice in but also have figured out on my own – it is a combination of “how you act (gravitas), how you speak (communication), and how you look (appearance)” (p. 171). Taken together, these paint a picture of a person’s leadership capabilities that can help support a person’s bid for position or kill it. I had an experience early in my career that was illustrative: my second post-college job was as a library assistant in the Duke science libraries. I was 23. The libraries served mainly faculty and graduate students in the science departments – meaning I was younger than most of the people that I was trying to maintain some authority over (for teaching and for library policies). I stopped wearing jeans and t-shirts very quickly at that job, and haven’t gone back to it since. Over the years my personal style at work has evolved more and more towards simplicity with a little bit of interest (I tend to wear long skirts and colored blouses, with blazers in the winter), and I now sport what I call “department head hair” (with a streak of purple in it for fun). I haven’t had anyone pull me aside to counsel me on my executive presence in a long time – which suggests that either no one thinks I need counsel, or no one is willing to give it to me. I think I should find someone trusted to help!

On the principle of co-regulation and socially shared regulation of learning, I started having discussions with my three junior department heads (all women) about sponsorship for their careers. In reading Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor one of the things that I’ve realized is that I’m a good mentor for these women, but not in a high enough position to sponsor them to the rest of the university (not least because I’ve been in my role as Associate Dean a very short time and don’t have a university reputation to leverage for them). However, I now recognize that just as sponsorship is important for my career, it is also important for theirs – and their career success is important to me. I’ve also considered who in the libraries would be good candidates for my sponsorship, and have identified a high-potential woman who has a master’s degree (qualifying her to be a faculty librarian) but is currently in a staff position.

As noted above, I emailed Mr Art Dean to thank him for his facilitation of a recent diversity program in my unit retreat, and to offer my help back to him (as a first step in nurturing him as a sponsor). To my delight, he wrote me back within a few days not only accepting my thanks, but offering several ideas for things we might work on together. One includes continuing the work on diversity/access and inclusion that we started in the retreats (which I will happily do), and another is to train me to facilitate the series of structured discussions, one of which is what he had given to the unit. This would give me access to departments across the university in both academic and student service areas – which, if I do a good job, could significantly increase my name recognition on campus and my association with what is a core value for me, the libraries, and JMU.

So this week I’ve considered my roles both as sponsor and as protege – and have taken some steps towards living into those roles. It’s encouraging but also a little scary!




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