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Jessica Carter

Jessica Carter believes in having options. While attending Duke Law School, she also pursued an MBA. After spending a few years as an associate at Cahill Gordon & Reindel, she moved to Citigroup Global Markets Inc. where she was the Senior Vice President and Associate General Counsel for their Private Client Group. All of her experiences as a lawyer created pathways for her to carve her niche as a diversity strategist who works with women of color, helping them to reach the executive suite in corporations and law firms. Here she shares some of her motivation for writing a book—a need in the marketplace for uncovering and discussing the barriers to inclusion for women attorneys of color—and some advice for law firms that are willing to diversify.

During a book conference at Jacob Javits Center I came across your book, Double Outsiders: How Women of Color Can Succeed in Corporate America. Can you give me a brief overview of your book?

My book is a comprehensive guide to the professional and personal challenges facing women of color/multicultural women in today's workplace. These women—African-American, Latina, Asian-American, and Native American—are among the most misunderstood demographics in corporate America. I give readers the opportunity to learn what their careers and lives are really like through in-depth interviews with: professional women of color, senior executives, human resources and diversity professionals, professional organizational leaders, and researchers and academics. Women of color will learn different ways to manage the everyday challenges they face in corporate America, such as dealing with stereotypes, hypervisibility, and cultural adjustments. Companies will learn more about one of their fastest-growing employee demographics, as well as effective strategies to recruit and retain women of color.

Practicing law is so time consuming. How did you find the time to write a book while practicing law?

After a couple of years at the law firm, I decided to go in-house so that I would have more time to write. I really love the law and enjoy practicing. Early in my career the long hours were sometimes very difficult to manage, and, quite frankly, lawyers are not always the best business managers. I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that I remember feeling frustrated with a general lack of organization among mid-level and senior associates. Moving into an in-house role certainly helped with some of these challenges, and I found myself preferring the practice of law in-house. But despite its challenges, I still feel like the practice of law is the best preparation for any other profession. I hope that young, stressed-out attorneys will realize that what I have done, they can do also. I changed my life by deciding what was important to me and by taking steps to pursue it. I carved out time to work on my plans, built a support network of friends and colleagues, and then executed my plan with maximum effort--it paid off. I think success is found where your passion and a need in the marketplace intersect.

Why did you transition out of practicing law?

My initial goal was to become an entrepreneur and to build a company that focuses on the advancement of multicultural women in the workplace. Now that I've begun to accomplish this goal through WomenSuite (TM), I am considering creative new ways to fulfill this mission. There is still quite a bit of work to be done in this area.

Interview with Jessica Carter conducted by Natalie Holder-Winfield of the Committee on Career Advancement and Management