Sponsored to Succeed.

Author:Perez, Theresa

"GETA MENTOR" long has been standard advice for students and young professionals. The benefits range from having someone who can lend a sympathetic ear to having an experienced hand help map out your career. In recent years, however, the conversation regarding career allies has shifted from the benefits of having mentors to the advantages of having sponsors.

The key difference between mentors and sponsors is that mentors give advice while sponsors actively seek to provide opportunities. Mentors can be akin to career coaches who help their mentees navigate difficult situations. They usually are more-seasoned professionals, but they do not have to be in the same organization as their mentee. Sponsors, however, are decisionmakers within a protege's organization and often are in the protege's reporting chain. They ensure their protege is selected for prime assignments, gets promotions, and receives pay increases.

For women, especially women of color, having someone in a position of power who will go to the mat for them can be an effective way to combat systemic bias and break through the glass ceiling to positions of power and higher pay. When choice assignments or opportunities for promotion come up, a sponsor can put forward his or her protege and, since sponsors have clout and are in a position of authority, others will give the protege opportunities they might not have otherwise.

The report, "Sponsors: Valuable Allies That Not Everyone Has," is a call to action for companies to recognize and address the unconscious bias that exists in most organizations where white, male leaders sponsor or advocate for "people like themselves," meaning other white males. As a result of this human bias, female employees--and particularly female employees of color--are left behind when it comes to compensation.

'The report shines a light on the fact that white, male leaders should actively look for opportunities to advocate for people who don't look like them," says Wendy Brown, director of PayScale, Inc., which issued the report. "Human bias is entrenched in the workplace and sponsorship programs that don't address it will result in the continued prevalence of primarily white, male leadership on our nation's boards and executive teams. Sponsorship programs can be an important component of landing higher-paying management jobs, so it's critical for companies to have a formalized plan to ensure women of color have equal access to sponsors who will advocate for...

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