It appears we’re at the height of the women’s movement with frequent front-page headlines and media attention focusing on women’s empowerment. The Women’s Empowerment Movement was reignited in part due to Lilly Ledbetter – who fought against gender pay discrimination, which led to President Obama signing his very first bill into law “the Lilly Ledbetter Act” which serves as a huge advantage for women who file an equal-pay lawsuit regarding pay discrimination. Then there’s Sandra Fluke who amplified the call for access to contraception, rallying even more women to join the fight for women’s issues after Rush Limbaugh referred to her as a “slut” for advocating for free access to birth control.
Most recently the women’s empowerment movement has been accelerated by Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg who coined the mantra “lean in” which encourages women to self advance their careers.
The last few weeks my inbox has been inundated with stark perspectives on the best practices for women’s advancement. Buried in all the information about what women should or should not do, I came across a golden nugget of information in an article in Forbes magazine written by Contributor Frieda Klotz who makes the case that women need sponsors and not mentors.
In the article Klotz details her interview with Nicky Gilmour (Founder of Glass Hammer – an online community for women executives) about the effectiveness of mentors.
Gilmour’s analysis is “A mentor might tell you generic advice, a sponsor will advocate on your behalf to help secure work projects that will be more likely to help you advance. Sponsors generally wear your T-shirt in a meeting you’re not in.”
We’ve all had someone at some point that gave advice or guided us along the way from the sidelines. That’s the traditional role of a mentor. A sponsor on the other hand, does more than guide you from the sidelines he/she purposely goes to bat for you. The distinction between a mentor and sponsor is something to consider as many women are changing career paths, excelling in the work place, and/or looking for guidance. Instead of seeking a mentor consider seeking a sponsor.