Women: Over Mentored and Under Sponsored?

mentorship Nov 29, 2022

A Moderated Panel Discussion


Inspired by a recent comment made by an AWIT mentor, we partnered with Untapped AI to host this virtual event on November 29, 2022. The panel was moderated by Kendal Parmar, Co-founder and CEO of Untapped AI, and included Alison Kennard, Global Talent Strategist (Industry X, Accenture), Eva Sage-Gavin, Senior Managing Director (Accenture), and Jason Bissell, Founder and Chief Coach (ThenHow).

So, what does it mean to be someone’s sponsor? Undoubtedly, some think of themselves as sponsors without realizing they’re mentoring. They share their knowledge and give guidance to a junior employee, believing that they’re doing everything to help them advance. But mentoring is more about helping someone to succeed in their current role and, at best, preparing them for their next one. Mentoring doesn’t, strictly speaking, get them there. 

Instead, timely promotions and career advancement happen thanks to effective sponsorship: someone sitting at the decision-making table advocating for their sponsee, letting those in power know they’re the right person for the bigger job. It bears some risk for the sponsor and not everyone is cut out for this. It’s important to be clear about what the limitations are. 

But how do you get sponsored? If you’re lucky, your manager acts as your sponsor. However, especially if you’re a high achiever, keeping you on the team may be more in your manager’s interest. 
Instead, you may have to look elsewhere for a sponsor. Suppose you already have a mentor who is senior in the organization. In that case, they may be a good candidate to act as your sponsor because they’re familiar with you and your capabilities.  

If that isn’t an option, seek out potential sponsors in your organization. Approach them with your track record and make them see that sponsorship benefits them as well - you can learn from each other and making you shine will make them look good by association. Secure the commitment that they will keep you top of their mind when they're in staffing meetings looking to fill advanced positions.   

Once you’ve secured a sponsor, watch out for unconscious bias that may lead to “gating” (when a sponsor puts limits on your abilities and aptitude because your life experiences and choices do not align with their own and what they've been exposed to). If you notice this happening, remind them there is more than one way to be successful. Don't allow others to define that for you. 

Why not skip mentoring altogether? Mentoring is an essential step in the career advancement continuum. Both mentors and mentees benefit from the relationship through learning and building their brand and network. Mentoring helps mentees acquire the soft and hard skills they need to advance their career and enables them to create a track record that will make them attractive for promotions.