Breaking Boundaries to Conquer the Business World

Breaking Boundaries to Conquer the Business World

Phyllis James speaks at MGM's Women's Leadership Conference, which focuses on personal and career development, leadership and community engagement. Photo: MGM

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015 - 9:00am

CAMPAIGN: Women’s Leadership Conference

CONTENT: Article

When it comes to succeeding in business, perseverance and hard work go a long way. But sometimes achieving your goals means rejecting the status quo.

Growing up in Washington, D.C., Phyllis James looked to her teachers as role models. She excelled in the classroom, recognizing a solid education could help her move ahead. After college, while continuing her studies, she also realized settling for a typical career was simply not an option.

“At the time I was coming along, traditionally there were very few women or persons of color entering elite corporate law firms,” explains James, who earned her J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1977. “I didn't want to be pigeon-holed into civil rights, landlord/tenant or public interest work. I felt minority lawyers should be able to join the corporate arena.”

Forging a path
James worked diligently to become the first African-American partner at the San Francisco-based law firm now known as Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman. She next served as law director for the City of Detroit. She joined MGM Resorts International as Senior Vice President and Senior Counsel in 2002, and was later named Executive Vice President, Special Counsel for Litigation and Chief Diversity Officer. Her work includes overseeing MGM Resorts' philanthropy programs and the company’s Diversity and Inclusion initiatives.

“Diversity and inclusion are at their root based in a very humanistic philosophy. Organizations are made up of people, and in order to have a high-functioning group, you have to respect them as individuals, and invest in them as people.”

Inspiring females to take charge
“Taking responsibility for shaping your own career path is extremely important,” says James. “More and more women are creating their own glass ceilings. It means learning to be more assertive and finding opportunities, because it's rare that opportunity falls in your lap.”

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Sonya Padgett
+1 (702) 692-6807
MGM Resorts International