Mentoring is Good, Sponsorship is Great!!

July 25, 2016, by , Posted in Blog,Leadership,LEADERtips, 0 Comment

Recently, my client and I discussed the differences in execution and value of Mentoring versus Sponsorship. Both are key tools for professionals and at the same time, and are confused by many professionals who aren’t sure either.

Mentoring provides an individual one-on-one development and career planning, coaching and support toward mutually agreed upon goals of an individual (known as the mentoree). The relationship is a non-reporting one and replaces none of the organizational structures in place. The relationship can be short or long term based on the defined goals and desired outcomes.

Sponsorship is a long-term, hands-on commitment to encouraging, fighting for and creating advancement opportunities for high-potential individuals, by executives with ‘friends in high places’.  According to EY’s report: The Corporate Sponsor as Heros, A sponsor puts his or her reputation on the line to advocate and often advance women for leadership positions, often in the face of significant resistance.

  • I will note, sponsorship is not only for women, and you should not assume all sponsorships face significant resistance in the advancement of the executive.

But sponsorship is exactly what women need in order to 1) get the assignments that will reap them the experience and 2) to advance both within a company’s C-suite and their boards.

Credit Suisse Gender 3000 report of 2015 noted – ‘Sponsorship is a quicker route to the top….male employees are 25% more likely and senior male employees 50% more likely to have a sponsor –  possibly the old boy’s network, to smooth the way and develop the exposure and profile needed to get through the 60% exposure criterion identified in “Empowering Yourself, The Organizational Game Revealed” by Harvey Coleman.

In the book, it describes, how women are “over-mentored” and “under-sponsored” relative to male peers and how the support network needed for promotion does not need necessarily to be broader, but deeper, an impact which women can misunderstand.

It goes on to say….. ‘without sponsorship, women are less likely to be appointed to senior roles and less willing to step up for these positions.’

The report goes on to site that there is diminishing value for women when it comes to mentoring programs –

A 2008 survey by the Catalyst Group shows that 72% of men with active mentoring received one or more promotions within two years compared to 65% of women. Why? One reason might be that 78% of the men were actively mentored by a CEO or other senior executives, i.e. the decision-mak- ers, compared to 69% for women. But behind these numbers, it is actually a greater number of women—83%—who have a mentor at one point in their career compared to 76% of men, although 36% of women have female mentors versus 11% for men. So it seems that women are not getting equal benefits from mentoring even though many companies see this type of program as a key tool in efforts to help women up the promotional ladder. They need to think again.

LEADERtips for women to advance through mentoring and sponsorship:

  • Define your career goals, key milestones and achievements desired
  • Based on those goals, determine if you need a mentor and/or a sponsor – as there is nothing that says someone does not have both since they are focused on different goals (short or long term)
  • Identify potential mentors (look UP the organization, not sideways about  or down) and sponsors
  • Engage one or each in a review and discussion about your goals
  • If someone you ask is not able or wanting to contribute, move on and find someone else.
  • ASK for the support and then follow through


Resources –

EY’s report – The corporate sponsor as hero. Advancing women into leadership roles

Credit Suisse Gender 3000 Report


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