Oftentimes, when someone mentioned sponsorship, I think of the financial support companies throw at an event. This is probably because I work so close in media and putting together deals for two parties.
However, today’s topic is more about sponsoring and advocating people, especially people who are on the rise. There was an article that highlighted this situation pretty well. The differences that women face in any industry compared to their male counterparts. It was a well-written articles that described what we usually felt in the workplace. This is the age old question I always find myself asking, “Why are most women in the middle management and not in the C-suite enough?”
“She’s not strategic” is certainly something I have heard before. Humans tend to compartmentalize in order to simplify our lives. But when you categorize women and don’t give them a chance at high stakes projects, those leaders are capping and limiting your potential before you have had a chance to prove yourself.
This HBR article positions this predicament well, especially this line right here:
Women tend to be over-mentored and under-sponsored.
Yes, there is a difference between mentorship and sponsorship. We’ve all checked off the mentorship box, where we are listening and giving constructive feedback and support to get our mentee hyped up. A cheerleader, if you will, in private.
Sponsorship is something different in that the person uses their clout and position to advocate for you in public. They are not afraid to recognize great work and to champion the next leader, using their reputation to help the next person get into a higher role. They will put their name on the line for you, not just behind closed doors.
Sponsorship is a kind of helping relationship in which senior, powerful people use their personal clout to talk up, advocate for and place a more junior person in a key role. While a mentor is someone who has knowledge and will share it with you, a sponsor is a person who has power and will use it for you.
Mentorship is absolutely necessary in the workplace, but it has its limits and will only get people, especially women, so far. Sponsorship is what we need more of in our companies — there will always be room at the table. It’s time to give people space. And if you’ve been given the opportunity to speak up, make sure you use that space.
We all need to learn to let go of any ego where we think just because we are inviting more people to the table, we are diminishing ourselves. That is simply not the case. If you’re secure enough, you know that championing others will reap more benefits for all — not just as leader, but also for the whole company. This is why you hire smart people for your team.