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Are Women Over-Mentored and Under-Sponsored?

mentorship vs sponsorship

Women in mid-management role remains very low in Japan, there are so many reasons behind but I think sponsorship has something to do with it.

First let us dive into the difference between mentorship and sponsorship. They both are extremely important for career development. Here is the breakdown:


  • Focus: Guidance and support
  • Role: A mentor shares knowledge, experience, and advice. They help you develop your skills, navigate challenges, and set goals.
  • Example: Imagine you’re a new programmer. Your mentor, a senior developer, can teach you coding best practices, review your work, and offer tips for dealing with difficult bugs.


  • Focus: Advocacy and opportunity
  • Role: A sponsor is someone with influence who actively promotes you for advancement. They can recommend you for opportunities, introduce you to important people in or out your field, and advocate for your skills and accomplishments to decision-makers.
  • Example: Your sponsor, the CTO of your company, is impressed by your coding skills and work ethic. They recommend you for a lead developer role and speak highly of you to the hiring manager.

Here’s an analogy to think about it:

  • Mentor: A coach who trains you and helps you improve your game.
  • Sponsor: Your biggest fan who gets you noticed by the scouts and helps you land a spot on the team.

Think of sponsorship as an extension of mentorship. A strong mentorship relationship can lead to sponsorship. As your mentor sees your growth and potential, they may become your sponsor and actively advocate for you

So, how to locate a sponsor in the company?

Finding a sponsor within your company can be a strategic move to accelerate your career growth. Here are some steps to help you locate a potential sponsor:

Identify Potential Sponsors:

  • Look for leaders who:
    • Work in your desired career path or a complementary field.
    • Have a strong reputation and influence in the company.
    • Are known for supporting and advocating for others.
  • Consider your existing relationships: Do you have good rapport with any senior managers or executives?
  • Company initiatives: Are there any diversity and inclusion programs or mentorship programs in your company? These can be a good starting point to connect with potential sponsors.

Here are some ways to connect with potential sponsors:

  • Internal events: Attend company meetings, conferences, or workshops where you can network with senior leaders.
  • Information sessions: Look for opportunities to connect with leaders who are presenting on topics relevant to your career goals.
  • One-on-one meetings: Request a brief informational interview to learn more about their career path and express your interest in their guidance.


  • Be proactive and take initiative. Sponsorship doesn’t just happen, so put yourself out there.
  • Build relationships: Focus on developing genuine connections with potential sponsors over time.
  • High-profile projects: Volunteer for high profile projects to build the working relationship with senior stakeholders. Sponsorship has to be earned so expose yourself to be seen to the executives is the first step to gain recognition. 
  • Ask your mentor to make a list of potential sponsors and reaching out to them.
  • Set a clear goal for you career advancement 


To give you a living example from someone who is looking for a senior role in a different division. She told me that first she needs to work on the relationships with a few executives and surprisingly some executives can see her potential and offer to sponsor her for a job that she does not have much track record on.

Of course, It is better you have a career plan for yourself when you get a mentor, if not Mentor can help you develop one. It is much better if you get a mentor who is executive level in or out of your division. Because the executive-level Mentor can be your sponsor as well and speed up the process of advancing your career.

Some big organisation has a pairing system to assist Women’s career advancement, of course, It is easier to follow the program but to make it happen for you all depends on your determination and strategic efforts. It takes time and luck to get the right sponsor at the right timing but it is truly worth the effort. 

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