To rise in their careers, women need mentors. However, a sponsor who goes above and beyond is even better

I grew up surrounded by strong women and a family who supported any path I chose. This allowed me to create a vision of myself in the C-suite, but I didn’t know how to get there. Unexpected but invaluable advice from a leader early on shaped my perspective. “You’re going to need more than ability and aspiration to make it,” he said. He explained that long-term success comes down to combining those with work ethic. If I had my sights set on a top job, I would need to own it every day, not just on good days.

Years later, a female leader took an interest in my work and potential. She publicly acknowledged my capabilities during a leadership meeting, urging them to entrust me with a challenging project. This seemingly small act significantly changed my career trajectory, leading to work with increased complexity and visibility, including my first leadership role.

Today as a chief human resource officer where I am is in part due to that mentorship I received when I was starting out. And while I always endorse the importance of tenacious effort, that’s not the only advice I give to women embarking on their careers today. To truly thrive in your career, you need more than just talent and diligence. You need a sponsor. Someone who believes in you and advocates on your behalf when you aren’t in the room. We understand the importance of mentorship, but having a sponsor can be life changing.

However, it can be difficult to find sponsors, creating a gap for women to reach the highest levels in companies.

It’s one of the reasons I’m so passionate about developing women as a leading talent strategy for companies. Truly magical things can happen when we take a chance on people and invest in nurturing their talent. I’ve seen this time and time again throughout the years. As leaders, we must dedicate time, energy, and our voices to ensure that more women move into management and the C-suite. It’s easy to focus on the demands of our work, forgetting what contributed to our progression.

As a mom and executive, I can attest to the importance of remaining true to yourself, acknowledging your abilities, and not letting external influences sway you. However, we know women often don’t pursue positions because they feel they don’t have all of the skills listed, or there isn’t enough flexibility to support their life.

To change the landscape of companies and board rooms, we must sponsor future women leaders and push them to venture outside of their comfort zones.