Women, lawyers and 'mentorship' vs. 'sponsorship'

Written by Kim Lyons on .

An interesting piece in the Washington Post examines the difference between "mentorship" and "sponsorship" for women in business. Kent Gardiner, chairman of  law firm Crowell & Moring, read an article about unconscious bias in the workplace and realized it was happening at his own firm:

“Law firms tend to be very white, very male and [tend to stick with the same] demographic in terms of moving power and authority down to other people,” Gardiner said. “So the idea that you’ve brought in a class that’s more than half women lawyers doesn’t mean that half the organization is going to be led by women in any reasonable time in the future..."

Economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett, author of the article that prompted Gardiner's epiphany, makes the argument that sponsors are more valuable in advancing a career:

Unlike mentors, who typically are available to offer advice or a shoulder to cry on, sponsors are people in positions of power who work on a protege’s behalf to clear obstacles, foster connections and assign higher-profile work to ease the move up the ranks. Hewlett’s research found that, while women have been “mentored to death,” men are more likely to be sponsored, which translates into higher pay and a more ambitious climb to the top.

The full article is here: Big D.C. law firm tries new hammer to break glass ceiling

Interested in what Pittsburgh lawyers, and others at large companies, think of this idea. Would you rather have a mentor or a sponsor?



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