Johnson & Johnson, Bayer Execs Discuss Effective Sponsorship for People of Color and Women

Sponsorship is essential to advance women and people of color into senior leadership positions.

“We now have almost 400 people in our sponsorship program globally…  These were all high performing people for a long period of time. They were all people we knew had upward mobility,” said Nancy Wolfe, SVP, HR Crop Science Commercial Operations for Bayer (a DiversityInc Noteworthy Company). “As we all know for people of color and women, the environment is not set up to have access to opportunities.”

Wanda Bryant Hope, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer for Johnson & Johnson (a Hall of Fame company), and Wolfe outlined their programs, how people are selected, senior leader accountability and results at DiversityInc’s Top 50 event panel discussion, “Effective Sponsorship,” on Tuesday led by DiversityInc Chairman Luke Visconti.

Wolfe serves as a member of the Commercial Operations Leadership Team as the Human Resources (HR) Business Partner for the Crop Science division of Bayer. She leads HR initiatives to drive growth while attracting, developing and retaining top talent.

“In the second year, 40 percent of our protégée population took on a new, expanded role or received a promotion,” Wolfe said. “Mentoring is what you say when they’re in the room. Sponsorship is what you say when they’re not in the room… Having that relationship, knowing you’re putting your personal credibility on the line, is incredibly important in sponsorship relationships.”

Wanda Bryant Hope started out as a sales representative at Johnson & Johnson before moving into sales, marketing, analytics, and operations leadership roles and then into her HR role as the VP of Global Performance and Development.

For Hope, diversity is personal. When her mother was a college student, she was arrested for eating at a lunch counter with a group of other Black students. Her parents’ activism continues to inspire Hope in her current role with Johnson & Johnson.

“This to me, it is around building these relationships and getting to know people different from you that you wouldn’t normally get to know. But more than anything it’s about outcomes… For us, it is about accelerating development, accelerating advanced movement and it’s about retention of our employees,” Hope said.

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