(WOMENSENEWS)--There's only one rule that matters, one rule that I have not seen written in any book, article or Web site.
That one rule is: Every woman must always play on the women's team.
Because every time any woman succeeds in business, your chances of succeeding in business increase. And every time a woman fails in business, your chances of failure increase.
Women aren't playing in the same team with each other right now. We don't talk to each other. We don't support each other. We don't rainmake for each other. We act as though we were a minority at work (which is barely true) with no hope of ever changing that situation (which isn't true at all).
Like it or not, women are indeed treated like a minority in the world of business. But are we really? Women constitute a healthy (and growing) 47 percent of the work force. But we make up only 12 percent of the upper executive ranks. And female enrollment in business schools has plummeted over 15 percent in the past five years--in part because women are being given the message that while a business school education can help for the first ten or so years of a career, after that the playing field stops being level.
There's more. Women comprise only 12.5 percent of corporate officers and only 12.4 percent of the board seats, in 500 of America's largest companies. We represent only 4 percent of the top earners and only 6.2 percent of the clout titles (chairman, chief executive officer, chief operating officer, vice chairman, president, senior executive vice president, and executive vice president). There are just four women CEOs in the entire Fortune 500.
Even Women in Top Ranks Earn Comparatively Less
Comparatively, we don't make enough money, either. Women who work full-time, year-round in 2000 earned only 73 percent of what men who also worked full-time, year-round earned, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The wage gap has narrowed by about 10 percentage points during the last 17 years, with only slight improvements in the most recent years.
A recently released Congressional study shows that the difference in managerial salaries for men and women actually increased from 1995 to 2000, despite the fact that the country was experiencing an economic boom. In certain key industries where women are supposedly making great strides (entertainment, communications, finance, insurance, and retailing), the gap increased by as much as 21 cents for every dollar.
There is a widely held perception that in the not-for-profit world women do much better than men, but the reverse is true. A new study from GuideStar, a national database on not-for-profit organizations, shows that over three quarters of the larger organizations are run by men. Alarmingly, even when women hold top positions, they earn, on average, significantly less than their male counterparts -- $170,180 compared to the men's $264,602.
Some of this lack of financial parity occurs because, as I said, women don't band together in ways that create power.
But it's also because women have been reluctant to admit that by banding together, we are more likely to succeed.
As a result, we are constantly being forced to second-guess ourselves, even when we decide to follow all the male rules. We are always expected to jump through hoops without understanding why. That's because our own way isn't the expected way. The female psyche is not the role model for the business psyche; the male's is -- and if you don't believe me now, read "Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman" and see how men have written all the rules of business, and why the rest of us need to learn them.
Because women think we have to succeed in the way men want us to, we have spent too much time looking in the wrong places: We keep trying to improve ourselves, we keep trying to reinvent ourselves, we keep learning more; we keep thinking if we try harder, somehow things will change.
Unfortunately, change hasn't happened. We need to know the male rules of business. But we must create and play by our own rules. We should be talking to each other; we should be planning with each other; we should be working to improve the situation for every one of us, not for just one of us. We should launch a new strategy to advance our careers as a whole, rather than advance our own careers at the expense of other women.
Gail Evans is the author of "Play Like A Man, Win Like A Woman," a New York Times Business Bestseller. She was a former White House aide and CNN's first female executive vice president. She currently lectures around the country, mentoring and teaching women on how to get ahead in today's corporate world.