Alison is a writer, speaker and conference moderator, who specialises in leadership, women in business, corporate responsibility and the changing world of work. A former Financial Times journalist, she is co-author of the acclaimed book Why Women Mean Business: Understanding the emergence of our next economic revolution. Alison is Director of The Conference Board’s European Council for Diversity in Business and is a Senior Visiting Fellow in the Faculty of Management at Cass Business School, London. She also serves on the advisory group for the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission’s Working Better project.
She speaks frequently on women and leadership at public conferences and internal events. Recent engagements have included chairing and speaking at the Institute of Chartered Accountants’ Narrowing the Gap conference and directing The Conference Board’s Budapest 2008 conference on Talent in the New Europe.
Alison regularly contributes articles and columns to the Financial Times and has kindly provided her time to wearethecity for the purpose of this interview.
Why did you chose your career path and how did you get to where you are today?
I’ve always loved digging deep into current affairs and drawing attention to things in the hope that it will bring about change for the better in society. I started as a graduate trainee journalist in Liverpool, worked for Reuters in London and Paris then joined the Financial Times where I worked for 20 years. Now I’m a freelance writer and author, speaker and facilitator, specialising in leadership, women in business and the changing world of work.
What is the best thing about being Alison Maitland?
Being lucky enough to have both a wonderful family and a fulfilling career.
If there was one thing that you could say was a great success, what would it be?
Well, I believe I’ve made an impact in more than a decade writing about women and work, and I’m thrilled that Why Women Mean Business, the book I wrote with Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, is making such waves.
If you could go back to ten years in your career would you change anything?
Not really. 10 years ago I was enjoying writing about a wide range of fascinating management issues including women in business and had a lot of freedom in my job.
What has been your biggest challenge to date?
Juggling everything when the children were little and never quite feeling it was possible to get the balance right. Now I know that pretty much every working mother feels that way – and a lot of working fathers do these days too!
What do you think is the biggest challenge is for females working in the City?
The very macho culture. The high-risk, high-reward financial model has produced a lot of egregious customs and behaviour over the years, as well as absurdly long working hours. Too many women have had to decide whether to take legal action or go quietly with a payoff when they’ve suffered discrimination. The City’s also been about a decade behind other sectors in acknowledging changes in the workforce and market, notably the rise of women – and there’s been a lot of scrambling to catch up in the past few years.
The economic crisis is a test of which companies have really understood why the gender issue matters and which companies never really got it despite the rhetoric. I think there are opportunities for women to make a big difference now in the first group of companies I mention – even though a lot of women as well as men are feeling very vulnerable and uncertain about the future right now.
What do you do to relax and obtain a life balance?
I sing in a choir, which is exhilarating rather than relaxing. Also, running, walking, and cooking, though there’s never enough time for any of these! Working from home really helps though.
Can you share any career tips with other members?
- Take calculated risks for things that matter to you – it can pay off handsomely.
- Don’t stay put in a job you dislike in the hope of promotion to something better.
- Build and nurture your network – get known.
- Be really good at what you do – and be reliable.
- Be courteous, even when you have to be firm or show some teeth.
- If you’re going to quit, do it when you’re still wanted!
For more information about Alison, please visit http://www.alisonmaitland.com/
For more information about the book, please visit http://www.whywomenmeanbusiness.com