This week on Around the Circle, Kristina and Ashley discuss mentorship and sponsorship. Though the two often get lumped together, they’re actually very different, especially in how they affect women trying to climb the ranks in leadership. A mentor is someone who serves as an advisor to someone else who is often less experienced or less knowledgeable. They’re usually giving the mentee guidance, motivation or even emotional support. Sponsors, on the other hand, can directly change your career trajectory. If you have a sponsor, they take a direct role in helping you advance, and since they almost always work at the same organization you do, they can help you earn raises and promotions, plus build connections with the right people. The biggest difference between sponsors and mentors is that sponsors are usually giving up some of their own “political capital” to sponsor an employee or co-worker. They’re actually putting themselves on the line to vouch for you.

We attended the National Retail Federation’s 2020 Big Show and were able to sit in on the Visionary Voices of Ambition, Purpose and Inclusion keynote, during which we learned that while sponsorship is important to everyone, it’s actually most important for women and minorities. Tammy Sheffer, chief people officer at Rent the Runway, said that historically women receive mentorship and more men receive sponsorship, and that one way to change that trend is for more men to step up and sponsor women.

To learn more on this topic, check out our article, Why Mentorship Isn’t Enough for Women Leaders.