What Your Company Should Know About Sponsorship and Mentorship in the Workplace

As part of the Gender Equality Leadership in the Canadian Private Sector Project, we actively consult with participating companies about challenges and solutions relating to gender equality in their workplaces. These conversations have indicated that there are a limited number of sponsorship programs, in comparison to mentorship programs in organizations across Canada. Organizations can utilize both sponsorship and mentorship to support the growth and potential of all employees.

Sponsorship vs. Mentorship

In mentorship, a mentor provides professional advice, support and feedback. Mentors can offer insight about how to increase visibility, expand networks and build skills and qualities for career advancement, but mentees drive the relationship. On the other hand, sponsorship goes beyond this traditional framework, as sponsors are actively involved in driving their protégé’s career forward. In sponsorship, the sponsor has several key attributes: they believe in the potential of their protégé, are willing to invest in them, have influence at the table, and are constantly advocating for them.

Mentorship and sponsorship are both useful career development tools. However, sponsorship has been found to be more effective in the acceleration of women’s development in the workplace. This is because developing formal sponsorship networks help women overcome potential barriers for advancement in their organizations. Here’s how implementing formal sponsorship programs can help your organization achieve gender equality:

1. Sponsorship propels the advancement of women: Women face a multitude of barriers in the workplace that prevent them from reaching high-level positions. Sponsors can help to break down these barriers by being an advocate for their female protégé and recommending them for new assignments, opportunities or promotions. In addition, sponsors can ensure that their protégés are equipped with the right skills, tools and knowledge for advancing in their careers.

2. Sponsorship creates a supportive workplace: Sponsorship is a two-way street, both the sponsor and the protégé support each other and must be equally invested in the relationship. The sponsor can help to address weaknesses and enhance the strengths of their protégé, and the protégé can offer their feedback and perspective about their sponsor’s leadership style. This dynamic between two individuals can spread across the organization and develop a workplace culture where employees support the overall success of all of their colleagues.

3. Sponsorship is the gift that keeps on giving: Formal sponsorship programs create purposeful and intentional relationships between sponsors and protégés. Women who feel empowered and progress in their career because of a successful sponsorship relationship can offer the same support to a protégé of their own. This chain reaction illustrates the importance of highlighting the potential of women in all levels. Sponsorship provides the right type of support to ensure that women are always on a cycle of progression.

The Gender Equality Leadership in the Canadian Private Sector Project strives to help organizations overcome gender equality challenges by offering various solutions, such as the introduction or advancement of formal sponsorship programs. Stay tuned for our Blueprint release in 2020, which will help your business take the next step forward in its gender equality journey.