What’s better: mentorship or sponsorship?

Literature coming from business and human resource management suggests that women are over-mentored and unders-ponsored. However, if you have been reading reports about women in medicine, then you likely have heard that women are both over-mentored and under-mentored. Where does the truth lie? That depends on various factors including the definitions of these terms.

What exactly do these words mean? In the business sector, mentorship is generally considered advice or counsel from someone who is more knowledgeable, and sponsorship is typically defined as someone who is influential in a company or organization putting a person forth to support career advancement including promotions.

The Harvard Business Review summarized the landmark report “The Sponsor Effect: Breaking Through the Last Glass Ceiling,” which described a sponsor as “someone who uses chips on his or her protégé’s behalf and advocates for his or her next promotion.” The article goes on to explain that a sponsor is responsible for “expanding the perception of what the protégé can do; making connections to senior leaders; promoting his or her visibility; opening up career opportunities; offering advice on appearance and executive presence; making connections outside the company; and giving advice.”

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