Getting the Corner Office

How to avoid the mistakes women make that put them outside the power circle

true when it comes to matters of promotions and compensation.

A 2004 report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research says that full-time employed women still earn just 76 cents to every dollar their white male counterparts earn — while black women earn just over 62 cents in comparison. “Although part of this discrepancy is clearly due to discrimination,” writes Frankel in Nice Girls, “another part is because disenfranchised groups are less likely to ask for what they want.”

In her Catalyst research, Giscombe discovered that black women see white peers as members of the “in group,” receiving perks and greater leeway than they do. Adds Giscombe: “Perhaps women of color don’t have the same sense of entitlement that would make it easy to be demanding.”

Even at her current level, Richardson admits that she is still learning to be more assertive. Here are some of her tips:

Be persistent. “When we ask and [higher ups] say ‘no’ the first time, we don’t go back,” she offers. “If you believe in what you’re asking for, it’s your personal responsibility to keep on asking. We often don’t ask for clarification. Do they mean no for now? No for the next six months? Or no forever?”

Learn the art of negotiation. “You have to understand what you want,” says Richardson. “Second, know who can give it to you. And third, develop the strategy to get your mission accomplished.”

MISTAKE No. 4: Avoiding Office Politics
If there’s one thing that State Farm executive G. Arlivia Babbage Gamble regrets, it’s not learning how to play golf, despite her successful rise through the ranks of the Bloomington, Illinois-based insurance giant.

“I’ve never felt I was left out,” says Gamble, the agency’s division vice president. “[Still,] there certainly could be an opportunity I might have discovered to have something in common.” The golf course is where strategic alliances can be formed — relationships with co-workers, supervisors, and executives who can further your cause.

Gamble may not be sports-minded, but she’s known for years that office politics is a game that she can’t afford not to play. Frankel says that it is actually impossible to avoid. “Politics is how things get done. If you’re not involved in office politics, you’re not playing the game, and if you’re not playing the game, you can’t possibly win.”

If Gamble needed a refresher course, she got one a couple of years ago when leading a team. The team’s objective was to solve a distribution problem that was affecting State Farm’s 17,000-agent network. Fixing the problem was tough enough, but what made it worse was a white male colleague who constantly shot down Gamble’s ideas, undercutting them to whoever would listen. Plus, he had the ear of one of the company’s most senior leaders.

“It was the most difficult thing I had to do, because I am a harmony seeker,” says Gamble, who wrestled for over a year with this issue. Her subordinates warned her that this colleague was out to get her. “It became so serious that my credibility was on the

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