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Paying It Forward Pays Back for Business Leaders

Developing Others Pays Off in Career Growth – And Reveals No Queen Bees Here, Catalyst Study Finds

NEW YORK– What makes a leader effective? Sound decision-making, knowing how to manage people, taking charge, and inspiring others to achieve goals are a few of the qualities. But helping others develop their full potential is also an integral part of successful leadership. According to a new Catalyst report, it pays off not only for emerging talent but for those who invest time in cultivating them. And more women than men, it turns out, are helping others move up the ladder. High-potential talent who were themselves mentored, coached, or sponsored to advance in their careers are more likely to “pay it forward” by developing the next generation of leaders, according to Leaders Pay It Forward, the latest report in Catalyst’s series that examines the career advancement of high-potentials throughout the world.
And, paying it forward pays back: It benefits not only protégés but leads to career advancement and compensation growth for those providing the assistance—$25,075 in additional compensation between 2008 and 2010, according to the report. Why? It may be that developing other talent creates more visibility and a following within the organization for the high-potentials who are doing the developing, which leads to greater reward and recognition for the extra effort.
Women, the report finds, are even more likely than men to develop other talent. Sixty-five percent of women who received career development support are now developing new talent, compared to 56 percent of men, and 73 percent of the women developing new talent are developing women, compared to only 30 percent of men. This finding helps bust the oft-cited “Queen Bee” myth that women are reluctant to provide career support to other women and may even actively undermine each other.
“This report dispels the misconception that women’s career advancement lags behind men’s because they don’t pay it forward to other women. It shows that women are in fact actively helping each other succeed,” said Ilene H. Lang, President & CEO of Catalyst. “The notion that women executives are Queen Bees who are unwilling to support other women needs to be put to rest.”
Overall, the report finds that high-potentials who are paying it forward today recognize that others once took a risk on them and gave them their chance—and now it’s their turn. The men and women who are more likely to be developing others:

  • Have themselves received developmental support (59%) vs. those who have not received this type of support (47%).
  • Were sponsored (66%) as opposed to not receiving sponsorship (42%).
  • Are in senior executive/CEO level positions (64%) vs. those at non-managerial levels (30%).
  • Are more proactive when it comes to their own career advancement (63%) vs. those who are relatively inactive (42%) with regard to their own career advancement.

The report poses key questions for companies to consider. For instance: How is your organization creating a culture of talent development? What will motivate your talent to “pay it forward” to the next generation of leaders? How can more men be encouraged to develop women at their organizations? How can organizations disarm stigmas about spending time with the opposite sex at work?
“Paying it forward is an essential element of being an outstanding leader, and it benefits everyone involved—it’s a virtuous circle that leads to more of the same,” said Ms. Lang. “We hope that this report helps to dispel myths and prompts organizations and leaders to consider ways to pay it forward to make the most of their talent pool.”
BMO Financial Group, Chevron Corporation, Credit Suisse, Dell Inc., Deloitte LLP, Desjardins Group, Deutsche Bank AG, Ernst & Young, Hewlett-Packard Company, IBM Corporation, KeyBank, McDonald’s Corporation, UPS
This research is part of The Promise of Future Leadership: A Research Program on Highly Talented Employees in the Pipeline, a longitudinal study on high-potential talent. Between Fall 2007 and Spring 2010, Catalyst conducted an online survey of alumni who graduated between 1996 and 2007 from MBA programs at 26 leading business schools in Asia, Canada, Europe, and the United States. Findings for this report derive from responses to the survey fielded in 2010, which provided additional information on career progression initially collected in 2008. Data in this report are based on responses from the 742 respondents who had attended full-time MBA programs and had worked full-time at a company or firm as of the 2008 survey. Earlier reports in the series are Opportunity or Setback? High Potential Women and Men During Economic Crisis; Pipeline’s Broken Promise; Mentoring: Necessary But Insufficient for Advancement; and The Myth of the Ideal Worker.
Founded in 1962, Catalyst is the leading nonprofit membership organization expanding opportunities for women and business. With offices in the United States, Canada, Europe, and India, and more than 500 preeminent corporations as members, Catalyst is the trusted resource for research, information, and advice about women at work. Catalyst annually honors exemplary organizational initiatives that promote women's advancement with the Catalyst Award.