Mentoring is Only Part Of The Solution

Mentoring programs abound. Coordinators, companies, and participants boast of success. The success is real. The programs are powerful.

Yet, mentoring programs are only part of the solution.

What’s the problem? Opening doors.

In a recent HBR Ideacast, “Women Are Over-Mentored (But Under-Sponsored)” featured guest Herminia Ibarra, professor of organizational behavior at INSEAD and coauthor of the HBR article, Why Men Still Get More Promotions Than Women, talks about the distinction between mentoring and sponsoring and the impact on women in the workplace today. Click the HBR icon to link to the podcast.

Herminia asserts that not all mentoring relationships are created equal. Mentor relationships offer feedback, support, and advice but are not designed to “propel” mentees upward. Mentor relationships are not designed to “open doors” and this is where mentor programs fall short – for women.

Although I’ve heard the term “sponsor” and have even said, “sponsor a woman today,” I didn’t see sponsorship as a distinction of it’s own. But now I do.

Listen to the podcast (it’s about 11 minutes).

What do you think?

Photo credit iStockphoto

About the Author

Lisa Rosendahl

Lisa is an astute Human Resources leader with more than 18 years of professional human resources experience with expertise in leading people, inspiring commitment and managing change. A former Army officer, Lisa is also a wife, mother, speaker and writer and authors a personal blog at


Judy Lindenberger

I have had mentors in my life who have helped me tremendously. But what also works, and what women can often do on their own, are the following: 1) Study financial management, become an expert in a functional area such as strategic planning, manufacturing, marketing or sales, serve on a nonprofit or advisory board and, the minute the opportunity arises, take a position with profit and loss responsibility; 2) Learn to develop a communications style with which men are comfortable (a great read on this is by Dr. Deborah Tannen, Talking from 9 to 5: Women and Men at Work); and 3) According to Nicki Joy and Susan Kane-Benson, authors of Selling is a Woman’s Game, women tend to encourage harmony and agreement, consult with experts, employees and peers before making a decision, and make personal connections with others at work. Be true to who you are and what you have to offer the world.

Diane Prince Johnston

Interesting, Lisa. I am attending a WBENC conference and Matchmaking event with a “reverse” trade show next month. Looking forward to seeing how it works and will think about your post and mentoring vs. sponsoring while there.


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