"I don't think it's deliberate or malicious," says Tafur, president of Thomasina Tafur Consulting (www.thomasinatafur.com). 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 mentor 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 mentor 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."
Such programs also promote retention in companies of all sizes because they demonstrate a company's interest in investing in women's future 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 mentor program. "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."
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.
Read about Tafur's specific tips for HR professionals to consider when offering a women mentor program on HR.BLR.com