Alison Green is director of organisational and coaching practice, WOMBA (Work, Me and the Baby). Alison is an experienced, Masters qualified, executive coach and specialises in supporting professionals as they make the transition to becoming a working parent whilst managing their careers.
Alison is a champion of diverse and inclusive workplaces in which everyone can thrive. She has served on diversity and inclusion (D&I) committees, led culture change programmes and is currently chair of an ESG (environmental, social and governance) committee. Alison is also an Associate Coach at Hult Ashridge and a European Mentoring and Coaching Council Senior Practitioner.
Alison’s executive career spanned advertising, marketing and brand directorship within AXA, WPP and Saatchi & Saatchi groups in the UK and Asia. It was her love for building high performance teams and developing individuals which led Alison to transition her career to executive coaching.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
There’ve been three chapters to my career – the first in advertising, the second in marketing and the third is my current portfolio career centred around executive coaching. This third chapter consolidates and integrates all my work-life experience which is energising and fulfilling.
Of my current roles, the one that brings me the most joy and purpose is being director at WOMBA (Work, Me and the Baby), a specialist coaching practice that helps organisations build inclusive cultures through programmes that support their working parents.
As a parent myself, I have experienced the highs and lows of having a family whilst trying to maintain and grow my career. And as a leader, I have championed diversity and inclusion in my executive and non-executive roles. It’s this combination of personal and professional experience that’s led me to a role that creates meaningful change. It isn’t easy but it’s why I’m so proud of the work we do at WOMBA as it makes a real difference to organisations and the diverse talent they want to retain.
In addition to my role at WOMBA, I’m an Associate Coach at Hult Ashridge, a European Mentoring and Coaching Council Senior Practitioner, Chair of an ESG (environmental, social and governance) Committee for a UK Plc and a Governor at an inner London school.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
My career has been a blend of planning and experimenting with each chapter built on an academic foundation, professional qualifications and blue-chip experience.
I was certain I wanted to start my career in advertising and I applied to graduate programmes until I was accepted by a top London agency and then progressed at pace in the UK and internationally.
I’ve always been restless and curious and have continually challenged myself. Throughout my career I’ve grown and progressed by taking on new roles, especially in emerging areas where there was no ‘blueprint’. I’ve also been pragmatic, adapting my career to my life situation from single professional to an empty nester.
Becoming a parent gave me an altogether new perspective on what was important to me. I transitioned from advertising and agency life to marketing at a multinational to help me balance my career with motherhood.
I’ve no doubt that my experience as a working mum helped me to become a better leader, to be more empathetic and to have a greater understanding of what matters to me. This awareness and insight led to my career transition to executive coaching and the purpose-led roles I prioritise today.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
There’ve been various challenges along the way, never more so than the times when I experienced the personal and professional being in conflict as a working parent. I also worked in the advertising and financial services sectors at a time when there were very few senior women and even fewer mums around leadership tables. I agree with the saying “it’s hard to be what you can’t see” and there were moments that felt lonely and isolating.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
Professionally, without a doubt my biggest achievement has been building high performing teams and developing talented individuals. This was also my greatest enjoyment and my love for this is what led me to transition my career to executive coaching. Personally, I look at my two grown up sons and see how they’re making their way in the world, and I couldn’t be prouder.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
I lived and worked overseas from a young age which was transformative both professionally and personally. It’s been a major factor at every stage of my career. Experiencing different cultures prompted me to question my assumptions, understand the importance of different perspectives and value differences. It was a time that led me to truly appreciate how valuable diverse thinking is, and inclusive cultures are, to our world.
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?
Gender gaps in employment, working hours and salary widen at the point workers become working parents. Focussing attention at this stage, with equal policies and support available to both mums and dads, will enable them to live more balanced lives and to equally share caring responsibilities and the domestic load whilst managing their careers. This will have long term benefits for workers, organisations, society and the wider economy and will accelerate the pace of change for gender parity.
Society is changing. The majority of men agree they should be as involved in all aspects of childcare as women (BITC Equal Lives Report). Public and organisational policy needs to catch up with this change to ensure the responsibility of childcare can be shared and both parents can continue to manage their careers. We need to see employers introducing equal and extended parental leave policies and this needs to be coupled with cultures and organisational practices where parents feel they can use the arrangements without it being detrimental to their career.
Our joint research study at WOMBA (Work, Me and the Baby) with Hult International Business School (Ashridge) – The Shift from Worker to Working Parent – found that many working mums feel forced to choose between being a mother over having a successful career. With the cost-of-living crisis and sky-high childcare costs continuing to exacerbate existing inequalities, many working mums have no option but to sacrifice work. Meanwhile we found that many dads have found it difficult to take on a greater parental role and feel frustrated and angry with a parental leave system that is not designed for them.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
There were moments in my career when I wish I’d spoken up. At the time I didn’t know how to or didn’t have the confidence to, but I still remember them today, so I know they were significant. Over the years I’ve learnt phrases and ways of expressing myself that have helped me to speak up. Looking back, I wish I’d had them to hand during the early part of my career.
With that in mind, my one piece of advice would be to speak up and learn ways to have ‘awkward’ conversations to express yourself and be heard in the workplace.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
My next challenge, alongside Helen Sachdev, is to extend and expand the work we’re doing at WOMBA to benefit as many working parents as possible. Ultimately our mission at WOMBA is to champion and support the professional growth and family life of working parents. In doing so, we hope to eliminate the negative association between parenting and career progression.
There are two ways we’re hoping to achieve this:
The first is to shape and inform organisational best practice through our ground-breaking research project with Hult International Business School (Ashridge) exploring how working parents experience the transition to parenthood. For phase one, we invited mums and dads to share their experiences of returning to work after parental leave. Now, we’re inviting HR and D&I professionals to share their perspective before we progress to the quantitative stage of the research.
The second is to make support for working parents more widely available through upskilling and training coaches (including internal coaches) using our proven coaching framework and approach.