Once you hit the workplace, playing the corporate game will often become one of the only survival mechanisms.
In just an hour, four Black women executives who climbed the corporate ladder their way came ready at the BLACK ENTERPRISE Women of Power Summit with gems that turned pressure into diamonds.
During the powerful session, “Climb The Ladder Your Way,” a glowing panel of excellence activated an urgency within guests to get to the next level, title, or promotion. The room was fully tapped into the strategies that proved that career advancement in the corporate world is attainable.
The corporate game, or office politics, is similar to the rules of the Snakes and Ladders game, where certain moves lead to promotions and progress, and those who cannot play the game are overlooked or relegated to the sidelines. The panel strived to spread awareness that choosing not to play the game (or being ignorant of its existence) can hinder us.
Learn how to win the corporate game
“If you choose to play the game in your organization, you have to learn how to win,” said Francine Parham, Founder & CEO of FrancineParham & Co., to an empowered room. The accomplished global business professional and practitioner is no stranger to career mobility. Her company equips women with the tools and solutions to advance female talent and fuel the leadership pipeline. For Parham, the work continues.
Michelle Marshall, Head of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion of PUMA, echoed Parham’s remark by challenging the room to understand that there is no single approach to career advancement. Marshall courageously shared her journey about her game-changing pivot when she realized that building connections and skill sets were to her advantage in a corporate game often stacked against Black women.
“When you’re playing the game, it’s not giving up your authentic self,” Marshall said. “You have to think about the big picture and the end goal that you’re trying to accomplish.”
The Vice President of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at UnitedHealth Group, Monique McWilliams, also spoke about authenticity, and with passion, she encouraged guests to not “let anyone define your story” on the path to success.
“Don’t give up who you are to be someone else. Come as authentic as you are and people will appreciate that,” McWilliams said.
For a young lawyer turned advocate, McWilliams shared that law firms are way behind in DEI and leadership accountability. Coupled with her awareness of this disparity, and her passion for representation, McWilliams declared to the room that “you have to be ready to exercise your muscle.”
“Make sure you are leveraging your levels of strength.”
Climbing the ladder comes at a cost
A seasoned licensed therapist in the room posed a relevant question to the panel after opening her introduction with “climbing the ladder comes at a cost.” The room sighed as the panelists nodded in agreement.
For multicultural and inclusive media executive Arnetta Whiteside, her experience with burnout revealed that she “cannot be well and help others if I’m not helping myself.” As the SVP of Multicultural Consulting, Agency & Brand Readiness at Publicis Media, Whiteside is a next-generation mentor who encompasses self-advocacy’s power as a corporate game player.
“Make sure you’re advocating for yourself and asking for the resources to help you,” Whiteside said, who emphasized the importance of being visible to your company executives or Fellow players.
“I got my job by playing the game.”