Sponsorship and Mentorship; Why it's Important to Know the Difference

    As a woman working in IT, you probably know that shattering the glass ceiling isn't always easy. Doing it all by yourself is even more challenging, and unnecessary.

    When you're at the beginning of your career, you might find it hard to make the right decisions to get you to where you want to be. Just as finding career advancement opportunities without having built up a reputation and network that you can count on yet. That's why mentors and sponsors are so powerful. 

    But what's the difference between a mentor and a sponsor? This blog aims to help you understand this and inform you what you can do to become a mentor or a sponsor to support other women.

    Are mentorship and sponsorship the same thing?

    When discussing inclusion and diversity, we often come across the terms mentorship and sponsorship. Both are powerful tools for supporting women's success and creating a more diverse workforce. The terms mentorship and sponsorship are often used interchangeably, and while they are related and share similarities, they are not the same thing. When you look at them closely, you will see that their meaning, as well as their impact, are actually quite different. 

    Someone aspiring to grow their career can enormously benefit from having both. To find a quality mentor and a sponsor it's important first to know the difference between the two. 

    First, let's define the meaning of both terms.

    What is mentorship?

    Mentorship is focused on growth and guidance. In a professional setting, a mentorship will usually consist of someone who is more experienced in the workforce (the mentor) and someone who is perhaps new to the workforce (the mentee). The mentor has usually accomplished the goals their mentee is working towards and is willing to share their knowledge and experience from which the mentee can learn, but mentorship comes in many forms. 

    A mentor doesn't necessarily need to be someone who works in the same company or even in the same role. Most important is that a mentor has qualities that the mentee desires to develop and is willing to teach to the mentee.

    What is sponsorship?

    When you think of sponsorship, the first thing that probably comes to mind is the image of an athlete being provided with free gear from a company in return for exposure. 

    That's not the kind of sponsorship we're talking about here. Sponsorship can include mentorship in a way that a sponsor can also function as a mentor, but it has one crucial difference. Sponsorships' primary focus is opening up new possibilities to the person they sponsor. They take an active role in their protege's career growth, using their reputation to create opportunities that otherwise would not be open to the protege. 

    Using their professional connections, they show that they believe in their protege as they are taking a potential risk; if the protege doesn't live up to the expectations, their name is on the line. 

    Both sponsorship and mentorship are about putting women in a position to help them succeed on their own terms. 

    In reality, sponsorship usually grows from a productive mentor-mentee relationship.

    Why do you need both?

    Someone who's an advocate for mentoring and sponsoring women is Jessica Hall, who is Chief Product Officer at Just Eat Takeaway. At the beginning of her career, she felt like she had to change and compromise herself in order to succeed. Both sponsors and mentors supported her in finding her unique voice. She discovered her power and became passionate about supporting others to do the same.

    In The Techionista Podcast, Jessica talks to Vivianne Bendermacher, founder of Techionista Academy, about this subject. 

    She explains: 'it's a scale, and when you understand it and reflect on it, you can help many people'. 

    Supporting women often starts with mentorship, and sharing your experience to help someone grow in their career path. 

    The next step on the scale is strategizing, connecting someone to people they wouldn't usually be connected to. Others believe something interesting might be there when you use your reputation and recommend someone.  

    According to Jessica, advocating for someone who can't advocate for themselves ranks the highest on the scale. 

    She believes that supporting women through mentorship and sponsorship is extremely important. When you feel you have someone in your corner who's helping you but at the same time helping you to grow, it's very powerful.

    How can you support women to succeed on their own terms? 

    People often think you need to be in a very high role to open opportunities to others, but this is not the case. You can be at the start of your career and still sponsor other women. Start small, have a coffee with someone, and allow them to ask questions. Celebrate others' successes by mentioning their accomplishments to your network. 

    Big change comes from hundreds of tiny steps, and they all matter.

    The Techionista Podcast

    In episode 4 of The Techionista Podcast, Jessica speaks more about the power of mentorship and sponsorship.

    In The Techionista Podcast, Managing Director Vivianne Bendermacher sits down to have a personal conversation with female leaders in IT and Technology. Hear their behind-the-scenes stories to get a deeper sense of who they are and how they got to this point in their career. The goal is to leave you inspired, connected, and knowing that you too can have a successful career in tech, no matter where you are on your journey. You got this!

    Techionista was founded in 2017, when Vivianne Bendermacher and Tamira van Roeyen decided it was time for more diversity and inclusion in IT and technology. So they decided to take on one of the greatest challenges of our time: realizing more inclusion and diversity in the IT & technology labor market. Today, together with a great team of men, women, and business partners, they have (re)trained over 700 women to work in IT and Technology.

    Besides training individuals, they also offer companies to design tailored training for their current staff or to train new talent. 

    If you're ready for a career change or want to upgrade your current skills to better your position in the job market, look at their website: https://www.techionista-academy.com/en/