Blog

Creating more gender equitable and inclusive cultures is high on the agenda for many organisations. However there is often a disconnect between existing staff development activities and efforts to create the desired cultures. More explicitly linking individual development to organisational change can make a big difference to the return on investment when developing staff. The ‘bifocal approach’ translates this ideal into reality through clear principles and program design.

What is sponsorship and why is it so important for women?

What is the big deal about sponsorship? A few years ago we didn’t even talk about sponsorship. Women were being urged to find mentors, and now this advice is being replaced with women being urged to find sponsors. This change in tack is nicely encapsulated in the title of Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s book (Forget a mentor) Find a Sponsor. Her subtitle The New Way to Fast-Track your Career also provides some insight into the positive hype surrounding sponsorship.

In this blog I want to talk about the research that brought sponsorship into the limelight, and why it is important, particularly but not exclusively from a gender perspective, to distinguish between mentoring and sponsorship. 

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Summer reading: 'Humble Inquiry' and its applicability to mentoring

‘We must become better at asking and do less telling in a culture that overvalues telling’

Working with mentors is one of the hardest things I do. So, when I was drawn to the title of Edgar Schein’s book Humble Inquiry I approached it with this in mind. What, if anything, might be helpful for mentors in this book? Did it contain anything useful in developing their understanding and skills as mentors? 

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‘I don’t want to be mentored back into the straight line’

My title, ‘I don’t want to be mentored back into the straight line’, quoting a recent research participant, captures very succinctly a key difficulty with mentoring, and one that is almost entirely overlooked by mentoring practitioners and mentoring programs. I understood exactly what my interviewee meant, from both a research and practice perspective. Mentoring can inadvertently be used to help mentees to ‘fit in’, where mentors reinforce gendered norms and cultural stereotypes, teaching mentees to succeed the way they succeeded. 

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