Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Why men still get more promotions than women

Very interesting article in The Harvard Business Review on male vs. female mentoring, and the difference it can make in business contexts.
All mentoring is not created equal, we discovered. There is a special kind of relationship—called sponsorship—in which the mentor goes beyond giving feedback and advice and uses his or her influence with senior executives to advocate for the mentee. Our interviews and surveys alike suggest that high-potential women are overmentored and undersponsored 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.
The article is a bit anecdotal in parts, but has some underlying interesting ideas in it that are grounded in research. I'm not sure how applicable it is to academic careers, but having a mentor who in addition to giving you advice can help sell you and your ideas to others (institutional peers, editors, etc) is almost always, in my experience, a helpful thing.


  1. ahh... the old "but you're so capable of doing it on your own (aka good girl). The young male phd student however, looks as lost as I felt when I was younger. Need to help him find a good spot for post doc lab and faculty position"...

    yeah, probably that little thing, it looks like the same thing "mentorship and sponsopship" but the latter is one more step. Thanks for the link! Intersting read, even if it did sound a bit anecdotal (but it's hard to find any type of research on the topis though, I find at least)

  2. Thanks for the link, looks very interesting. And starts to make sense for what I've seen in the corporate world.

  3. Makes sense to me too. MENtoring women is really about getting women to do what the MEN want them to do, like pad up d00d resumes with more shit that the d00dz can take credit for. Sponsoring women is about the women achieving independence and not serving the interests and careers of the MEN. What MEN want that!?!?!? DOOM, IMPENDING DOOM!

  4. Wow. I remember sponsorship. Back in undergrad, there was this professor. Grad school? No dice, which is fucked up, since I think I was the second female PhD in my particular discipline. (I mean second in the world, not second from my university.) And jee, if they would've bothered to try to retain me instead of pooping all over me, they could've doubled the number of women in the field. Would it be out of line to forward a link to this to my former adviser? Probably. Still, tempting. If I do it, I should do it with more reflection sometime when I'm not up with insomnia in the wee hours of the morning.

  5. Excellent post! This is why I lucked out going to my division of National Lab. IN my division, 1/3 of the staff scientists were women, so women (like me) could get sponsored as well as mentored. I am not saying that male scientists never sponsor female trainees. It is just that my experience is like chall's--people are more likely to sponsor those that remind them of themselves when they were at the career stage. Due to human nature, that is likely to be people of the same gender/race/social class/etc. That is why I think getting a critical mass of underrepresented people of all types into positions of power is so important.

  6. Great post, FCS!
    I love the words "overmentored" and "undersponsored"; they hit the nail on the head.

  7. Thanks for the comments, all! I got a kick out of "MENtoring", reminds me of "HIStory". Ah, language.

    I was very fortunate at my last job to have fantastic sponsorship. One person above me in the food chain sometimes downright embarrassed me with how well he spoke of me in front of others (almost borderline fanboy), but really, I'm thankful in retrospect. I have no doubt he helped my career tremendously.