Michele Coleman Mayes has been a member of a select group—women general counsel in the Fortune 500—for almost a decade now. But when she first got serious about becoming a GC, she thought she’d been rebuffed.

It was around 1990, and Mayes was then working in-house at Unisys Corporation. She put a question to Andrew Hendry, the head of the company’s law department: Would he help her become a GC like himself? “He stared at me like I was from Mars, and proceeded to tell me all of the things I was lacking,” Mayes recalls. She specialized in litigation, and Hendry—who was a deal lawyer—”didn’t see litigators as real good talent for the GC job.”

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