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Why men still get more promotions than women – HBR tells women to forget about mentoring and find a sponsor instead

The likelihood of women to be promoted is all about mentoring – says an article in last month’s Harvard Business Review.  According to the authors of Why Men Still Get More Promotions than Women, it all comes down to mentoring.  While women are as likely to get access to mentoring as men are, they’re less likely to be promoted than men because they’re not actively sponsored the way that men are. 

All mentoring programs are not created equal, say authors Ibarra, Carter and Silva: while many women credit mentoring programs with giving them support in understanding themselves and preparing for future leadership opportunities, men tell stories about bosses and informal mentors who help them plan career moves and endorse them publicly.

To ensure women have access to this same type of sponsorship, organisations such as IBM, Unilever and Deutsche Bank are implementing sponsorship programs that go beyond the “role model” mentoring of the past.  These programs match sponsors and high-potential women with the specific goal of securing promotions for the participants within specified timeframe (usually one year). 

The article also includes a summary of the differences between mentors and sponsors, and ideas for training sponsors on the complexities of gender and leadership including the differences in leadership styles between men and women.  You can also access the IdeaCast to hear the authors perspective on this.

Thanks to Susan Andrews and Jeanette Marshall for highlighting this article – I think it’s a MUST READ and there are certainly some great ideas here I think we all could learn from.


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