Master Sgt. Tiffany Smith, center, shares an idea with others in her roundtable discussion during an Air Force Academy women's mentoring initiative meeting at the Academy's Milazzo Center Nov. 30, 2011. Smith is superintendent of the Manpower and Personnel Directorate's Command Personnel Division. (U.S. Air Force photo/Elizabeth Andrews)
Capt. Carla Stephany shares her table's ideas with the larger group during the Air Force Academy's women's mentoring initiative at the Milazzo Center Nov. 30, 2011. The purpose of the meeting was to set up a vision for implementing and assessing a women's mentoring program at the Academy. Stephany is a clinical social worker at the Academy's Peak Performance Center. (U.S. Air Force photo/Elizabeth Andrews)
Brig. Gen. Dana Born and others introduce themselves during a roundtable session as part of the Air Force Academy's women's mentoring initiative Nov. 30, 2011. The purpose of the two-hour meeting was to present ideas on how a women's mentoring program could best meet the needs of the Academy's community. Born is the Academy's dean of the faculty. (U.S. Air Force photo/Elizabeth Andrews)
12/8/2011 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Women across the Air Force Academy joined forces at the Milazzo Center Nov. 29 to develop a vision for a women's mentoring program based loosely on an existing program in Colorado Springs.
The purpose of the two-hour meeting was to present ideas on how a women's mentoring program could best meet the needs of the Academy's community, said Dr. Adis Vila, the Academy's chief diversity officer.
"Our mentoring program is ours to design," Vila said. "This is an opportunity for each of us to help one another, because we all have a skill we can share with others."
Women are the initial focus of this mentoring initiative due in part to the results of a study by the Military Leadership Diversity Commission, Vila said.
That study, titled "From Representation to Inclusion: Diversity Leadership for the 21st-Century Military," found that women and minorities are underrepresented at senior officer levels. One of the study's 20 recommendations was to prepare service members to manage their career progression through mentoring and career counseling programs.
Debi Bauer, who was president of the Colorado Springs Women's Express Network from 2010-2011, spoke to the women at the Milazzo Center about her experience setting up a mentoring network.
"This is a labor of love for all of us involved, and it will probably be a labor of love for you, too," she said.
Bauer also said it was important to have such networks to help other women break the "glass ceiling" that typically keeps women from top jobs in both public and private sectors.
"We can be really hard on one another, and that has got to stop," she said.
Based on the Colorado Springs group's early missteps and successes, Bauer said the Academy group should set up processes for screening mentors and protégées early and stick to them, should conduct initial training for those on both sides of the mentoring table and should set ground rules for mentor-protégée relationships. She also suggested the Academy's group look into the skills needed to run an advisory board and publicize their efforts.
After Bauer's presentation, the group split into five tables to discuss what the Academy's mentoring program should look like. At the end of the two-hour session, the smaller groups shared their ideas, including establishing a pool of mentors, building on existing programs like the Cadet Sponsor Program, recruiting enthusiastic mentors for the program and combining both individual and group mentoring.
Lt. Gen. Mike Gould, the Academy's superintendent, said he valued what the group set out to accomplish.
"I wish I could take a seat and be a part of this," he said. "I look forward to seeing the feedback."
12/8/2011 8:08:27 PM ET This is great program that is long overdue at USAFA. Glad to see it has Superintendent and Sr Leadership focus. USAFA definitely needs more programs like this.