Mentoring Women: Part 1

In our series of continuing articles recognizing National Mentoring Month, we move from mentoring youth to mentoring women. Today’s Advisor gives expert advice from a former FedEx senior manager.

Men generally do a "fantastic job" of helping their male colleagues move up the corporate ladder, but women typically do not, says Thomasina Tafur, a former FedEx senior manager who is now a consultant to HR executives on positioning females for leadership roles.

"I don’t think it’s deliberate or malicious," says Tafur, president of Thomasina Tafur Consulting ( Women are often so focused on the climb themselves that they don’t have time to look back down and give their female colleagues a hand, she says. "We have strived so hard just to get to the top."

Women-mentoring programs can help fill that gap. But how common are such programs? "Not very, that’s the problem," she says. "I do not believe that there are enough mentor programs specifically geared toward women."

Two Key Elements

Women-mentoring programs primarily exist at larger companies where, for example, affirmative action requirements apply or public image is a top concern, according to Tafur. However, she says smaller companies can benefit as well because mentor programs for women can help tap a "unique talent pool."

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Such programs also promote retention in companies of all sizes because they demonstrate a company’s interest in investing in women’s futures and helping them excel within the organization, she explains. Having a mentor program says to a female employee, "We really care about you and your future."

Tafur identifies two key elements of an effective women-mentoring program.

  1. "First and foremost, you absolutely have to have buy-in from upper management," she says. "If your program does not have that, it’s doomed from the beginning."
  2. Second, mentors need to see themselves as "sponsors," take their roles seriously, and be held accountable for their work in this area, according to Tafur.

In next Friday’s Advisor, we’ll get more mentoring tips from Tafur.

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Why It Matters

  • Women are a growing presence in the workplace, including in management positions.
  • Women can benefit from the same kinds of mentoring programs that men have over the years.
  • Women-mentoring programs can tap into the unique talents of this perhaps underserved employee population in your organization.