A graphic for the research summary on Why Men Get More Promotions

A Summary of Why Men Still Get Promoted More than Women

This research is valuable as it investigates why large multinational companies promote women less often, despite investing heavily in mentorship and sponsorship programmes. One of the authors of this piece is Herminia Ibarra, a Professor of Organisational Behaviour at London Business School. She has contributed to the sponsorship discourse for decades, particularly on why it is critical for women’s career development and progression.

Summary and Methodology 

This paper not only highlights why additional support programmes are vital for women’s development, but it also acknowledges that there is work to be done to make these programmes more effective in helping – and not hindering – women. The research used 40 in-depth interviews with high-potential men and women chosen by their employers to participate in its mentoring program. The paper also analysed and compared 2008 and 2010 Catalyst surveys to uncover differences in mentoring for men and women and the consequences for career advancement.  


There is a clear gap between the career progression of men and women. Other studies have highlighted that women have faced process bias when it comes to promotion, and that despite high performance, women are typically rated lower for leadership potential than men. Many see mentoring as a way to bridge the promotion gap, but mentoring can fall short of leading to positive change. 

Key Findings: 

  • The main finding of this study is that women have been over-mentored and under-sponsored. Organisations are investing in mentorship programmes, but the sponsorship element is critical for career progression, and so organisations need to refine programmes so they are more effective.  
  • Women benefit significantly from sponsors who act as advocates and help them to navigate ‘gatekept’ opportunities. 
  • In mentorship programmes which include sponsorship, men are more likely to be mentored by senior executives (78%) compared to women (69%). Comparatively, women are more likely to be mentored and sponsored by a non-manager or a first-level manager (7%) than men (4%). This imbalance is detrimental to the success of the programmes for women. 
  • Men are still more likely to receive promotions after mentorship and sponsorship (72%) compared to women (65%).

Proposed Solutions: 

  • Offer sponsorships training to understand that there are complexities within mentoring as well. Sponsors should be equipped with the right strategies to provide flexible aid to their mentees, understanding that their mentees likely have their own work alongside their mentorship.  
  • Ensure that women are assigned sponsors who match their high potential and understand the goals of the development programme. The programme’s intent needs to be clear for both parties so that the sponsor regularly advocates for the goal of career advancement. 

To find out more about the research summaries referenced in this summary, visit:

Women’s Progression in the Workplace (KCL)

When Women Lead, Firms Win (S&P)

To find out more about sponsors, visit:


Click here to learn more about the research-inspired: ‘The Overlooked’