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Blog: Stop mentoring, start sponsoring!

It’s been a busy year for mentorists (and I don’t mean the mind tricks chaps on the telly!) – those who are deemed the good and great of mentoring in every business are unusually busy at the moment, as companies rush to put in their next big thing – mentoring programmes for women.

There are schemes and programmes that have been around for a long time (Women in Business, Women Ahead, 30% Club, etc.) and such schemes have undoubtedly done a significant amount to improve the lot of women in business. I have been lucky to have had some great informal and formal mentors over the years. But now that gender pay mitigation is high on everyone’s to do list, I was wondering what had happened to all those mentoring schemes that companies were so proud of. Why have those schemes not done more to help get the gender pay gap down?

Tonight on the train on the way home, listening to pundits waxing lyrical about Gareth Southgate’s achievements in management, it dawned on me that the problem is that mentoring is not enough. It is not sponsoring and it seems to me, it’s sponsoring that is needed.

Sponsoring requires you to actively promote your candidate to all and sundry as part of you looking after their interests. There may be those who would argue that mentors are also supposed to do that, but to be honest I do not see much evidence of it! If the last few years has only taught me one thing about mentoring, it is that getting managers to actively sponsor you, to put their money where their mouth is (so to speak), is a lot harder than just getting them to mentor you. Sponsors risk their reputation by pushing you to the forefront and having faith that you will rise to the occasion. It’s a much more proactive undertaking. They encourage you to take risks and stand alongside you when you do, helping others to see the great in you and supporting you to achieve your goals. They also encourage others to sponsor you.

I’ve got a great sponsor now; when we are working together he pushes me to the front, and has faith that I will be good for his reputation. Because of him, the latest stage of my professional career has developed and grown so much faster than I imagined. I can’t help feeling that we have both benefited from this!

So my message is, in terms of promoting gender equality, don’t just be a mentor – be a sponsor. Don’t just find a mentor, find a sponsor.

Of course, please don’t rely on this approach alone to get your organisation’s GPG down. Dealing with the sort of cultural biases that have enabled the pay gap to remain despite 40+ years of legislation is going to take a much wider approach. But it’s definitely part of the answer and this is why a lot of larger UK businesses have embraced sponsorship in the last year – both formal schemes and informal.

As we develop our findings on GPG mitigation, I am sure we will be coming back to this subject. In the meantime, if you want to know more about these issues, join us on 17 October for an interactive session on Achieving Pay Equality then we’ll happily provide you with everything you need to know about claims, risks, strategies and solutions.

Jane Baalam
Pay & Reward Specialist

Email Jane or call 0117 325 0526

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