Counsel Women of Color: Empowering women attorneys at home and abroad

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If you’re female and planning a career in corporate law, or if you are already  in the field and contemplating a career move, keep abreast of Corporate Counsel Women of Color (www.ccwomenofcolor.org) and its annual career strategies conferences and symposiums. Founded in 2004 to foster diversity in the legal profession, CCWC is the brainchild of Laurie N. Robinson, assistant general counsel in the labor and employment division at CBS Broadcast-ing Inc. Its membership comprises more than 1,900 women attorneys of color, including those who work primarily for Fortune 1000 and Forbes 2000 legal departments in the United States and in Africa, Asia, Canada and Europe.

CCWC’s sold-out Third Annual Career Strategies Forum in October in New York City focused on such topics as ethics for in-house counsel, the empowerment of women of color for the 2008 presidential elections, executive search strategies and managing business drivers. Featured speakers included Paula E. Boggs, executive vice president, general counsel and secretary at Starbucks Coffee Co., and former vice presidential candidate Geraldine A. Ferraro, now senior adviser to The Global Consulting Group, an international corporate and financial communications firm.   

“It truly was an awesome sight to see so many women of color who have achieved great heights in their careers and personal lives. Even more awe-inspiring was the fact that this high-powered group supports one another’s growth and development and is more than willing to network, share best practices and collaborate on strategies for success,” says Robinson, a 2005 Network Journal “40 Under-Forty Achievers” honoree. 

So dedicated is CCWC to growth and development that it carries on its Web site several articles on career success strategies. Writing on salary negotiating, for example, Rhonda Edwards Powell, an attorney at Scripps Networks in New York, argues that our failure to ask for more may stem from internal notions of gratefulness for being given an opportunity to work for the company and out of fear that someone is lurking over our shoulder ready to take the job at any salary. “Playing into those concerns, we often cheat ourselves by failing to negotiate a salary that reflects what we are worth,” Powell writes. 
“In order to receive what you deserve, you must demand it!”

She advises job seekers to research the salary range for the position they are seeking and to wait for the company to initiate salary discussions, then show them what to do once the discussions get underway. “In the end,” she says, “make sure the deal you broker is in writing.”

In “Tips for Success,” Rhonda Adams Medina, senior vice president at Nickelodeon and Noggin in New York City, encourages readers to determine what success looks like to them, to be their own advocate and not to let their ego get in the way of success. “Never cede your professional future to anybody. Your boss is not your mother and even the kindest of supervisors have about fifty things at any given moment that are more important to them than how to further your career,” she writes. “You have to prepare, campaign, advertise and sell your way into the assignments you need to reach the position that you desire. Human Resources won’t do it, your mentor won’t do it and your boss sure won’t do it. You are a lawyer—advocate for yourself!”