Mentoring Vs Sponsorship

In my consulting practice, I have noticed that clients are proud speaking about their initiatives for Gender diversity, all of them understand what mentoring is and most of them are still struggling with achieving the results they wish these programs could or should have. What they don’t realize is majority of their initiatives either have a celebration or CSR angle to it while the right start would be realizing that it is a business imperative.

Decades of women’s mentoring programs have been rolled out around the world, are still being recommended by consulting firms and are indeed still being conducted in the organizations as I write this piece. The reality, the number of women in senior executive roles is not even close to the number of women who have been through these programs nor does it mirror the percentage of women in an organization’s workforce.

Globally, in organizations where gender inclusion is a priority, some well-meaning individuals without any bias suggest “we must put in a women’s mentoring program”. These programs are believed to be the magic solution for amending the decreasing number of women at senior levels.

While every individual must have a mentor, if you want to see the change in the pipeline then focus your energy and resources on Sponsorship Programs.

Definitions:

What is a Mentor:

  • A confidential sounding board for ideas and challenges
  • Supports and encourages you, provides tips on how to navigate organizations

What is a Sponsor:

A sponsor is a senior executive who:

  • Actively connects you to other senior leaders, and promotes your visibility
  • Provides you a safe space, gives critical feedback on skill gaps, improves your executive presence and boosts your development and career opportunities
  • Believes in you and would go out on a limb on your behalf
  • Would advocate for your next opportunity or promotion