Mentoring vs: Sponsorship: The big divide
As we mentioned in Part 1, most of the uber-accomplished women we interviewed at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit saw the support of someone senior as critical. They also underscore the difference between the watchful eye of a mentor and someone who “advocates” and actually “creates an opportunity” – called a sponsor.
This difference is explained in a recent piece in the Harvard Business Review, entitled, “Why Men Still Get More Promotions Than Women” which suggests that mentoring isn’t enough. The authors argue that career advancement is more likely to come from active sponsorship than more passive mentoring.
HBR: “Our interviews and surveys alike suggest that high-potential women are over-mentored and under-sponsored relative to their male peers—and that they are not advancing in their organizations. Furthermore, without sponsorship, women not only are less likely than men to be appointed to top roles but may also be more reluctant to go for them.”
Question: Who made the difference in your career, and what did you learn? We asked dozens of the summit’s extraordinary women for their answers, as Deloittte, for the third consecutive year, assigned artists to graphically chronicle these newsworthy nuggets for publication. (See illustrations below.)
Jane Blalock, CEO, JBC Golf:
From this sports pioneer — Golf’s 1969 “Rookie of the Year” — the answer to the question above comes fast: legendary coach Bob Toski, her first golf teacher, served as her MVM–most valuable mentor. But Jane agrees with the HBR study, saying — if she didn’t have Toski’s support as a true sponsor –she would not have accomplished what she has:
1) Amassing 27 LPGA titles, two world championships, and two Triple Crowns.
2) Setting the record for most consecutive cuts made (299) in the sport.
3) Being the first player in the LPGA to win more than $100,000 in four consecutive seasons.
Jane told me Toski introduced her to people she needed to meet, and set her up with the best equipment—something she never could have afforded on her own. “Sometimes,” she says, “a sponsor helps fund you” while providing other key kinds of support. Toski’s role was pivotal in Jane’s 18-year professional golf career.
In addition to guiding her to record-breaking wins, he provided her with her first set of pro caliber golf clubs for her maiden professional tournament in 1969. To this day, she keeps the clubs right alongside other meaningful golf memorabilia from her numerous victories. (See photo on right.)
Through Bob, she learned the value of passion, perseverance, and performance under pressure. (See illustration of Jane’s conversation with us at Deloitte’s “Inspiration Café—above.) She even began applying her lessons in golf to her work at Merrill Lynch in 1985.
Now, through her LPGA Golf Clinics for women, she “pays it forward” by “leveling the playing field” for women in business. The clinics were created to achieve a dual purpose: to help professional women become more at ease with golf as a sport — and as a business tool — and to raise funds for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
JBC Golf is the only woman-owned golf-event management and marketing firm in the country.
Karen Hughes, Global Vice Chair of Burson-Marsteller, former political consultant to President George W. Bush.
Karen names the former chairman of the Texas Republican Party–- Fred Meyer — as her key mentor/sponsor. It was a phone call from Meyer in 1991 that changed Hughes’s life. Meyer was looking for someone to be the “voice of the party” in Austin, and offered the job of Executive Director to Karen. (When Meyer decided not to run for reelection as chairman, Hughes moved to George W. Bush’s gubernatorial campaign.)
She said Meyer “taught her by example” — how to treat people with courtesy, openness, and respect. She also learned along the way, that she had to accept the position of “role model.”
Her experience allowed her to apply a new model for media coverage with then Governor Bush. As Director of Communications, Karen initiated a plan to “open the doors” to reporters so they could see a side of Governor Bush they hadn’t seen before. She said he was painted as “inexperienced” prior to that, and she was convinced he could showcase his authenticity with more press access. She invited writers and news crews on the road, and watched the game change “from defensive to offensive.”
Karen served as Counselor to President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2002, as a consultant to the successful Bush-Cheney re-election campaign in 2004, and as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy from 2005 – 2007. Her best advice to young business people? “Do what you’re passionate about.”
Cathy Benko, Vice Chairman and Chief Talent Officer, Deloitte LLP
Cathy told us her mentors and sponsors have been “a portfolio of people.” It started with her CEO suggesting she write a book. Then she asked her renowned former Harvard Business School Professor, Warren McFarlan to team up with her on the project, and he said, “yes” – adding — he’d “never bet against her.”
Well, Cathy now gets to “give back” what she’s learned in what is now her third book –“The Corporate Lattice: Achieving High Performance in a Changing World of Work.” Her advice to young business people? Noting that 60 percent of new jobs will require skills that only 20 percent of workers possess—she says, “Stay relevant. Adapting is key.”