More than Mentorship

19 Sep

Mentorship has been around for a long time, but there is a new “ship” on the block! Sponsorship. In light of my recent posts, I thought this would be a good topic for today.

Mentorship is about development. Sponsorship is about advancement. While development can lead to advancement, given the (often unconscious) bias in business (see, for example, my previous blogs on women in senior management) it is clear that development is not enough.

A sponsor must be someone at a higher level than you in the organization. They also must have power within that organization. Why? Because their role is to “go to bat” for you; to put your name in the ring, to bring you up in the critical conversations, to help get you in the door when getting in is largely about visibility. Because, at the end of the day, if no one knows you are there, it doesn’t matter how good you are.  

It struck me as I read Catalyst Canada’s recent report on sponsorship, that this is a formal system that mimics what has been going on in the “Old (white) Boys Network” informally forever – deals done over golf, people introduced over lunch, skipping over a few rungs in the ladder because someone knows someone and makes an introduction. It’s sad that we need to formalize the system so others can get in. But there it is.

Advancement, it seems, is still largely not about what you know, but who. It seems then, that (sadly), women and visible minorities still don’t seem to “know” the right people to get the big jobs. Sponsorship can help. It’s what we need to do to see some representation in leadership that comes with credibility so it can withstand the sceptics.

A great article to read about this topic is in Forbes magazine: Making Partner; Sponsorship and Gender Bias.

See more.

copyright 2011 Annemarie Shrouder
author, speaker and facilitator on issues of diversity & inclusion


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