What is ‘sponsorship’ and how can it benefit women in the workplace?

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Emma Charlton, Writer, Forum Agenda


  • Sponsorship is advocacy focused on career advancement.
  • Sponsoring someone includes advocating for, protecting and fighting for their career advancement, according to Harvard Business Review. Minority groups, including women, are commonly less represented by sponsors.
  • The World Economic Forum’s Growth Summit is taking place 2-3 May 2023 in Geneva, Switzerland, and will focus how we can ensure jobs and opportunity for all.

Do you want to get ahead in your workplace? If so, you could seek a sponsor – someone senior to you who focuses on your advancement.

Sponsoring someone includes advocating for, protecting and fighting for their career advancement, according to Harvard Business Review. It also says that a lack of sponsorship is preventing women from climbing the career ladder – and this lack of sponsorship is affecting women more than men.

Sponsorship can offer a solid path to promotion, but minority groups – including women – tend to be less represented by sponsors. That matters because there is a strong business case for diversity, with more diverse companies performing better, according to McKinsey.

Facilitating and promoting better work for all has long been a theme for the World Economic Forum. The Forum’s 2023 Growth Summit has a theme of “jobs and opportunity for all”. It takes place on 2-3 May 2023 in Geneva, Switzerland. It will bring together leaders from across the world to debate the future of work, advance opportunities and find solutions for current challenges.


What is the Forum doing about keeping workers well?

Keeping workers well. It is the united aim of a global community influencing how companies will keep employees safe. What is the role of COVID-19 testing? What is the value of contact tracing? How do organizations ensure health at work for all employees?

Members from a diverse range of industries – from healthcare to food, utilities, software and more – and from over 25 countries and 250 companies representing more than 1 million employees are involved in the COVID-19 Workplace Commons: Keeping Workers Well initiative. Launched in July 2020, the project is a partnership between the World Economic Forum and Arizona State University with support from The Rockefeller Foundation.

The COVID-19 Workplace Commons: Keeping Workers Well initiative leverages the Forum’s platforms, networks and global convening ability to collect, refine and share strategies and approaches for returning to the workplace safely as part of broader COVID-19 recovery strategies.

Companies can apply to share their learnings and participate in the initiative as a partner, by joining the Forum’s Platform for Shaping the Future of Health and Healthcare.

Learn more about the impact.

Mentoring or sponsoring?

While a mentor may be a sponsor, sponsors go beyond the traditional social, emotional and personal growth development provided by many mentorships. Broadly, sponsorship is more focused on advancement.

“While a mentor is someone who has the knowledge and will share it with you, a sponsor is a person who has power and will use it for you,” Harvard Business Review says. “When it comes to this important distinction, the evidence is also clear: women tend to be over-mentored and under-sponsored.”

Sharing knowledge about how to get ahead, making introductions to influential people, talking people up and better managing the distribution of high-visibility projects are all ways that can help people get ahead, the Harvard Business Review says.

Sponsorship can encourage women to speak up and spell out their ambitions, particularly in male-dominated fields like tech, according to McKinsey.


Women more affected than men

Structural barriers are one of the main drivers of gender gaps in the workforce, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report. While it is positive that more women than ever are moving into paid work and leadership positions, the report says, societal expectations, employer policies and the availability of childcare continue to limit many women, who tend to be primary caregivers.

“Geopolitical conflict and climate change both impact women disproportionately,” the report says. “In addition, the projected deepening of the current cost-of-living crisis is also likely to impact women more severely than men, as women continue to earn and accumulate wealth at lower levels.”

Against this tough economic backdrop, sponsorship and promoting the advancement of women seems as important as ever.

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