As almost everyone with a successful career can attest, having a mentor or sponsor can make a huge difference at work. For women, having a mentor or sponsor is particularly important since we have been shown to have weaker professional links and career networks. The problem, unfortunately is that there generally aren’t enough mentors or sponsors to go around for everyone who may want (or need) one.
How can we disrupt this status quo? At an individual level, women can take certain matters into their own hands. If you’re a senior woman at your company, you can consciously carve out time out to mentor other women and amplify the contributions of other women around you. If you’re just starting out in your career or somewhere in the middle of it, you can also make it a point to try to develop authentic relationships over time with colleagues, managers and executives.
Companies, too, can play a role. Many employers offer formal mentoring programs that involve companies creating pairings among employees. In 2013, a survey by the Society of Human Resource Management found that 20% of organizations offer their employees formal mentoring programs. In larger companies, these programs are more common, with the American Society for Training and Development finding that 71% of Fortune 500 companies offer formal mentorship programs.
Though we were not able to find a comprehensive list, we discovered that the following 63 companies do offer some type of mentorship program*:
Mentorship pairings can be cross-departmental, can involve senior-employees assigned to more junior-level employees, or even peer mentor matching. Some companies take things to another level and offer official sponsorship programs for women or other minorities. Sponsorships are a highly specific type of mentorship that requires someone to make a bigger investment in a mentee. The idea is that a senior leader or person in a position of power at a company uses their influence and clout to advocate for another employee who is seen as having high potential.
Information about corporate sponsorship programs was more scarce, but we discovered that the following 11 companies offer formal sponsorship programs.
While sponsorship is positioned as a key way to increase the number of women in leadership positions, ultimately, the devil seems to reside in the details. Mentorship and sponsorship initiatives seem to come in many shapes and sizes. Implementation, adoption (and probably efficacy) vary widely even among companies with formal programs in place.
Over the long run, we also hope to highlight some of the best practices, learnings and success stories from these programs as well, so that all employers may benefit from the wisdom of the crowds. Please contact us if you would like to share details and success stories regarding your company’s sponsorship and mentorship programs!
*Based on a range of publicly available information sources available on the internet. For any corrections or additions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
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