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Mentoring is not a new concept with the more forward-thinking companies developing mentoring programs for their executive talent. Some specifically aimed at women.

Yet findings show that despite comprehensive mentoring women are still not getting the same amount of promotions as men, or indeed receiving the same quality of promotion as men. The reason, research suggests, is that men are more likely to benefit from sponsoring. This is an area where women are falling behind.

What is Sponsoring?

Sponsoring is effectively having someone in your corner pushing your name forward for promotion. This could be your mentor or somebody with influence with decision makers in your organization. Normally, the executive board and HR.

A good sponsor will keep your name and your talents on the radar. This is proving to be invaluable in achieving the best career moves.

Catalyst Survey shows Mentoring Alone is not the Answer

A 2008 Catalyst survey recorded that more men and women were mentored than ever before. The follow-up survey in 2010 showed that men had received 15% more promotions. Although there are arguments that men would tend to land better more senior mentors, it was the lack of sponsorship that held back your average woman executive.

This has become a massive problem for the world’s biggest corporations and many have taken steps to address it.

Deutsche Bank discovered that much of its female talent was leaving. On investigation, the bank found that many women who had left were not unhappy with their working conditions, but they had landed more senior roles in competitor companies. The kind of positions that Deutsche Bank had made unavailable to them, preferring a different candidate.

Deutsche Bank has now taken action to assign more women in more critical posts using a comprehensive sponsorship programme. Now, mentees are mentored by executive committee members. This ensures they gain visibility where it matters and that they are not overlooked when promotions are handed out as they have someone fighting for them at the highest level.

Deutsche Bank reports that one third more women are now in larger roles with another third deemed ready to take on more responsibility.

A Note on Mentoring

Although it may seem we are against mentoring, nothing is further from the truth. Mentoring has a valuable role to play in any organization, providing altruistic support to help executives learn the ropes and hone their skills. Indeed, many women reported that it helped them realize their strengths and shape their mindset.

That said, it seems that the better mentors are not necessarily the most influential and this is a significant factor in preventing career progression.

Leadership Development

With all this in mind, it is emerging that gaining a good sponsor is crucial if you want to make the breakthrough and land a senior position. To this end honing your leadership skills is essential to find that sponsor and show you have what it takes to perform at the top.

Source: HBR