How to Play the Game

It takes comprehensive strategies, work -- life balance, and a powerful network for women to win in the corporate arena

The myth of the superwoman is alive and well and, as much as we hate the term, we hate even more what the label does to us. The implication causes us to become corporate contortionists, stretching and bending in directions and dimensions that challenge us physically, mentally, and emotionally as we strive to meet career goals, establish professional identities, and create nurturing environments for our families.

For all the hard work, however, the numbers still don’t support us. According to a 2005 Catalyst survey, women of color held just 1.7% of corporate officer positions in the top 500 publicly traded companies. The study also found that women of color were only 1% of all corporate officer top earners, compared to 4.1% for men of color. And the representation of women of color among the senior leadership of the largest corporate entities increased by a mere 0.3% between 2002 and 2005, a development Catalyst noted as being “alarming … considering the demographic shifts underway in the U.S. and world markets and workforces.” Moreover, a CareerBuilder.com survey indicated that one — third of working mothers are dissatisfied with their work — life balance.

Despite these lackluster statistics, we’ve learned there are prescriptive strategies not only for advancing in your career but for improving the quality of your work experience, finding balance in your life, building a network, setting priorities, and becoming an instrument to inspire others. In fact, we found that a number of female executives featured on our 2006 “50 Most Powerful Black Women in Business” list — and other high — powered professionals — made the right moves to score big in the corporate arena. Some even found a way to set their own rules.

Coming from a range of different industries, executive positions, and career stages, these players offer compelling and insightful examples in our three — part Women of Power series. They have faced challenges, setbacks, and traveled down forked roads, but all have enjoyed revelations, opportunities, success, and support from friends, family, and associates. Through trials and triumphs, they’ve learned how to master the game — and, most importantly, how to win.

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