The only cross-sector career sponsorship program in Canada.
Canada’s only cross-sector career sponsorship program
The Protégé Project is a career sponsorship program that matches an influential, powerfully positioned Canadian C-suite executive champion with a senior female protégé. The matches are formed across companies with a focus on supporting the protégé to move into even more senior leadership positions. The protégé project is:
- An innovative leadership program that will identify and assist capable, aspiring women in Canada’s digital economy to advance their careers
- An original cross-sector approach to expanding networks and accelerating leadership stature through thoughtful, selective matches with executive champions
- Rooted in WCT’s values of paying it forward and driving women’s advancement at all levels of their career
The case for diversity is well known and includes higher returns to shareholders, stronger employee engagement and better financial results. However, we have yet to capitalize on the opportunity with the current state of women in senior leadership positions at less than 25 percent in the information technology sectors and board representation by women in these fields at only 23.5 percent.
Our goal is to:
- Increase the number of top-performing women in senior decision-making positions in the Canadian telecommunications, media and technology sectors by expanding their relationship network
- Develop a set of best practices and models for repeatable success
- Empower protégés to pay it forward and create a ripple effect that will advance women’s leadership
Christin Wiedemann, Chief Scientist and Co-CEO of Professional Quality Assurance Limited in Vancouver and Ottawa-based Namir Anani, President and CEO of the Information and Communications Technology Council were one of the Protégé Projects inaugural teams. They described their experiences in the program with WCT in this Q&A interview.
What is the difference between mentorship and sponsorship?
Namir: Mentorship is about being a source of advice, sharing lessons learnt, and guidance to tackle career challenges, while sponsorship involves a planning and positioning strategy to advance a career objective by being an ambassador and an advocate on behalf of the protégée. As a sponsor, you’re called upon to seize the opportunities for the protégée by leveraging your circles, networks, and other potential channels to advance the protégée’s career objectives.
Christin: That’s right, a sponsor is someone who actively promotes you with the outspoken goal of helping you advance your career.
How did you define the objectives of your Protégé engagement?
Namir: We started initially by having a better understanding of each other’s skills, experiences, networks, and aspirations. This was done over the first two weeks of the engagement.
Christin: In our first meeting, we set up a framework for how we would work together, and we agreed on a set of goals for the engagement.
Namir: Then we started to explore current opportunities that were before us that we could leverage such as key conferences, networking opportunities, relevant meetings, presentations, others. Once this was done we had a clear understanding of what could be achieved and set out goals for the year ahead.
Christin: In each monthly meeting, we tried to make progress towards those goals, and we took detailed meeting notes with action items to make sure we stayed on track.Distance was never an issue – we used Skype to set up video conference meeting, but we also had the opportunity to meet in person.
Namir: Yes, we had a chance to personally meet in Vancouver while I was on business travel in BC, and also when Christin joined me at the Telecom Conference in Toronto where we planned for a larger networking opportunity with key executives in the digital and media space.
What were the outcomes of your Protégé engagement?
Christin: Namir introduced me to organizations, projects, conferences, meetings and people I didn’t know of before. My network has expanded, but I have also identified initiatives that align with my company’s goals, and that I’m actively pursuing or participating in.
I was promoted to co-CEO in April of 2015. It was my boss who told me about the Protégé program and encouraged me to apply. Having access to Namir as a career sponsor made the transition into the co-CEO role smoother and less intimidating. For me the timing was just perfect - there couldn't have been a better time for me to have an executive sponsor than as I was moving into a much bigger role than I'd ever had before!
Namir: The engagement certainly gave me a deeper sense of appreciation for the challenges faced by women leaders in their quest to achieve their career aspirations. Christen is certainly a gem that any top company would want to have leading their organization.
Christin: It was great for me and it was great for the company too. Namir helped me refine and expand our sales pitch. Through long discussions around my company’s value proposition, and industry needs and trends, I arrived at a succinct pitch that I continue using when presenting our company’s services and the value we add.
Namir: We took care to ensure that the goals we set were beneficial for both Christin and her company. It was important if she was going to invest the time and effort in attending a conference in Toronto to meet with key leaders, that the opportunity, while meaningful for her career aspirations, was also business growth opportunity for her company.
Would you recommend a Protégé engagement for other executive sponsors?
Christin: Absolutely. It presents a unique opportunity to get paired with an executive sponsor you would otherwise not have access to. I also appreciate how the protégés and sponsors are matched. If I picked my own sponsor I would likely pick someone that is like me, with similar background and experiences, but also similar strengths and weaknesses. Having someone else select a sponsor for you, means you are more likely to be challenged, and you’ll have a more powerful learning experience.
Furthermore, the program is very well structured and managed, which I think is key for its success, and for the protégés to enjoy the full benefits of it.
Namir: It’s a great experience for sponsors too. A sponsorship engagement is more than connecting protégés with career opportunities, its about seeing the brilliance in others, and to help them see the potential within. In doing so you meet great talent that will also inspire you in your own career journey.
Lisa Lyons Johnston, President, Kids Can Press
Lisa Lyons Johnston is President of Canada’s leading, globally recognized children’s book publisher, Kids Can Press, part of the Corus Entertainment (TSX: CJR.B) family. Since 2003, Lisa has held senior leadership positions at Corus Entertainment, first joining the company’s television group as Vice President & General Manger of Content Distribution and of Max Trax Digital Music.
In her current role, Lisa is responsible for all publishing programs and operations, including the stewardship of signature characters and brands such as Franklin the Turtle, Scaredy Squirrel and CitizenKid, the award-winning global issues collection for young readers. Recently Lisa spearheaded the launch of KCP Loft, a new Young Adult imprint aimed at young women ages 14 to 24.
Lisa has led the company’s diversification beyond traditional publishing into new revenue streams, developing a robust ebook program, cultivating content partnerships with blue-chip brands, and working closely with her Corus colleagues on the development of content from page to screen.
Lisa served two terms on the Board of Trustees of the Ontario Science Centre. Currently she sits on the Board of Ontario Creates (formerly the Ontario Media Development Corporation), the Emmy Noether Circle at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics and the Canada-China Creative Industry Advisory Group. Lisa is also a SheEO Activator investing in female led ventures.
In 2015 Lisa was honoured with a Leadership Award by Women in Communications and Technology, recognizing her efforts in advancing women's representation and achievement in Canada's information, communications and technology sector. Kids Can Press was awarded the Bologna Prize for Best Children’s Publisher, North America, in 2017.
Christin Wiedemann, Executive Vice-President, PQA Testing
After finishing her Ph.D. in Physics at Stockholm University in 2007, Christin Wiedemann started working as a software developer, but soon discovered that she found software testing to be more interesting and challenging. Changing careers, she started working as a tester, and soon also test lead and trainer.
In 2011, she moved to Canada, joining a local consulting company as a test lead. She soon assumed the role of Chief Scientist, using her scientific background to drive the company’s research and method development, training and marketing. Her strong drive and natural leadership abilities led to her promotion to first Regional Manager, and later Executive Vice President, before she left the company in 2018.
As a consultant, Christin has been fortunate enough to work on a variety of projects in very different environments, ranging from hundred-people projects to transition off a mainframe to five-people projects building mobile apps. Her work has increasingly been focused on coaching and training.
Christin is a passionate advocate for women in STEM, a passion she pursues through work and volunteering. She has been on the Board of Directors for SCWIST, the Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology, since 2015, and in 2018 she took on the role of Co-Chair of the BC Chapter of WCT, Women in Communications and Technology.
You can connect with Chistin on LinkedIn and on Twitter @c_wiedemann
Benefits for Women Executives
- Enhancing their understanding of how to navigate corporate environments
- Receiving career coaching and specific advice from a senior leadership perspective
- Building new networks
- Developing executive level skills for relationship building, decision-making and problem solving
While each executive and protégé match is unique with different goals, through the Protégé Project support, participants have reported the following results:
- Promotion to the most senior positions in their companies
- Expansion of network and contacts leading to new business opportunities
- Fresh perspectives on steps required to pursue career objectives
Did you know?
Research in this area suggests women with sponsors are 27 percent more likely than those without sponsors to seek a raise and 22 percent more likely to seek ‘stretch assignments’ that build their leadership experience.
Applying & Eligibility
Are you or someone you know:
- A senior female leader working in the Communications, Media or Technology sectors?
- Aspiring to move into the top leadership tier in your organization?
- Interested in working with a senior executive to support you in taking the next career step?
Then it’s time to take charge and accelerate your career with Women in Communications and Technology’s Protégé Project. This program is Canada’s only cross-sector career sponsorship program. It is an innovative game-changing career sponsorship initiative designed to advance the Canadian leadership landscape by helping to support senior women in the Communications, Media and Technology sectors move into top-tier positions.
The Application Process:
- Eligible applicants are senior women working in the Communications, Media and Technology field with aspirations of moving into the most senior leadership positions in their organizations.
- Applications are accepted at any time.
- The protégé-executive champion match will be made following a review of the applications and agreement with executive champions.
Not sure if you meet the qualifications? Contact WCT to learn more. For questions about the program or more information on how to apply, please contact email@example.com.
Benefits for Companies
- Sixty-eight percent of sponsored women report satisfaction with their pace of professional progression and 72 percent of senior women are more likely to stay with their company with access to mentorship and sponsorship.
- Studies show that diverse women with influential sponsors are more likely to feel committed to their organizations and are less likely to leave.
- McKinsey research confirms that companies with diverse leadership outperform in their sector.
- Men have more sponsors than women. Active sponsorship of women can improve your company’s ability to build diverse leadership.
Did you know?
- Research shows that men have predominantly male networks and women have largely female or mixed networks. Since men are more likely to hold senior positions, this means women may be at a disadvantage when it comes to accessing high level mentorship and sponsorship. This trend only intensifies the need for women and organizations to employ strategies like mentoring and sponsoring.
- Companies continue to lose women relative to men at every stage in the pipeline and women in leadership positions are still a minority. As of June 2017, only 32 Fortune 500 CEOs – 6.4 percent – were women.
How do I get my company on board?
Want to learn more about how the Protégé Project can benefit your company?
What to become an executive champion or integrate the program into your workplace?
Our program team will guide you through the process and demonstrate how you can benefit from Canada’s only cross-sector career sponsorship program.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s get started.
Participating Executive Champions
To date, the following C-suite executives have committed to support the program:
- Denise Amyot, President and CEO, Colleges Institutes Canada
- Namir Anani, President & CEO, Information and Communications Technology Council
- Jeff Boyd, Regional President, Alberta & The Territories, RBC
- Corinne Charette, Assistant Deputy Minister, Government of Canada
- Wendy Freeman, President, CTV News
- Elmer Hildebrand, CEO, Golden West Radio
- Dale Hooper, Chief Brand Officer, Rogers Communications
- Goldy Hyder, President & CEO, Hill + Knowlton Strategies
- Mitch Joel, President, Twist Image
- Jean LaRose, CEO, Aboriginal Peoples Television Network
- Jim Little, CMO, Shaw Communications
- Craig H. Muhlhauser, former President & CEO, Celestica Inc.
- Grace Palombo, Executive Vice-President, Chief Human Resources Officer, Great-West Life Co Inc.
- Michael Strople, President, Allstream
- Vanda Vicars, former COO & Deputy CEO, Capgemini Americas
- Lisa Kimmel, President, Edelman
- Kristen Chapman, CMO & EVP Digital, Indigo Books & Music
- Karla Congson, CMO, Dundee Corporation
- Deirdre Horgan, Partner and National Leader of the Customer and Marketing Strategy Practice, Monitor Deloitte
- Paul Bertin, President, No Limit Technologies, Chair Board of Directors – RIC Centre
- Dave Jamieson, the CIO of OpenText
- Eric Gales, Director, Amazon Web Services Canada Inc
Frequently Asked Questions:
What is career sponsorship?
Career sponsorship is having an individual, usually someone at a more senior level with strong influence, who assists a protégé to gain visibility for an assignment, promotion or position. A sponsor uses personal influence and relationships to champion deserving protégés. The sponsor’s main objective is to develop a protégé into a stronger leader and to help the protégé successfully take the next step in her career.
How is sponsorship different from mentorship?
While both sponsors and mentors may provide guidance and advice, the relationship with a mentor tends to be one where the mentee primarily benefits from the mentor’s experience. Sponsorship is more active in terms of the role the sponsor plays in promoting and developing the protégé. Sponsorship can be thought of as an alliance where there is benefit to both the sponsor and protégé.
Who is eligible for the Protégé Project?
The Protégé Project is designed for experienced senior executive women who are approximately one to three years away from the most senior ranks in their organization/company. This program applies to women who work directly in Communications, Media or Technology companies, as well as women working in industries such as financial or manufacturing where Communications, Media or Technology plays a major component (a Director of IT, for example).
How can somebody apply for the Protégé Project?
Interested potential protégés are invited to submit the initial application form. WCT will then assess and evaluate the application and inform applicants of next steps. Matches will be made after step 2.
The Protégé Project was pioneered by Corus Entertainment and Catalyst. Corus continues to power this groundbreaking program.