The concept that “you can be everything to all people all the time is bull,” said Alison Rand, who balances being the mother of college-age twins with serving as the executive vice president and chief financial officer of Primerica. She believes women put the pressure on themselves to be “everything,” which can be frustrating.
Rand was the mom who showed up at her son’s sporting events in “fancy” work clothes, arriving straight from the office. She had to figure out a gentle way to explain to her young child, “I understand; I’m not like other moms.”
She certainly has bucked the norm by joining a top tier of business leaders in a role traditionally dominated by men.
As Rand continues to redefine her image of a strong working mom and c-suite executive, she recalls setting that foundation first with her own children. “The more boys see powerful moms and expect to see not just powerful men but women as well, the better the next generation will be.”
The twins, now 19, were also the ones who taught her she didn’t need to be perfect at everything.
The 51-year-old exec recounted how she once stayed up all night dipping Oreo cookies in chocolate so they looked like monkeys for her daughter’s class, only to later learn her daughter just wanted plain Oreo cookies.
“I was in my mid-30s and I realized if I was going to make it work, I had to spend my time wisely on the things that mattered. I had to divide and conquer.”
Delegating is the only way she was able to balance raising a family, rise to the top of the corporate ladder, and help lead community organizations that support women and children. “I’m not the best at everything. …I embrace my team and strive to give them the confidence to always do better.”
Rand credited multitasking as one of the skills contributing to her “very fast, oddly fast” progression in Primerica, which she also attributed to her tenacity, intelligence, a strong mentor, and blindness to whatever glass ceiling might have existed.
“I never had the attitude you can’t do this because you’re a woman. It may have been there. I didn’t see it. I didn’t think it would stop me.”
It also helps that her financial services company is so supportive of families. “We have a balanced respect for life outside the workplace.”
She said companies should “create a work environment that is more flexible for working moms. … So many responsibilities can be handled without being face-to-face. With more remote workplaces and different ways to collaborate, it will be easier for women to achieve success both in the home and in the workplace.”
Women make up 50 percent of the company’s sales force and the company embraces diversity, she said.
When she’s not leading the ranks, Rand mentors and empowers women to be confident leaders. “I feel like women decide they can either be a good mom or a good working professional.” But it’s not an either-or proposition, she said.
Women need to do a better job of expressing themselves in the workplace, she added. “Someone wants to hear what you have to say. You have to contribute. So many get in the room and do not contribute.”
She encourages them to shatter traditional stereotypes and expectations about professional women. “Professional women often think they have to look a certain way: dark clothing and not a lot of flair, not stand out. In the late 90s I saw a speaker who wore a pink suit and heels, and that day I developed my own brand. I wear a lot of colors and heels. I love to do it. It’s part of who I am and has given me confidence. I show up at the table physically and mentally to be heard.”
Rand offers this advice for working women:
• Create your own brand.
• Feel good about yourself.
• Find champions to keep you up when you are down.
• Stand super tall.
• Figure out how to divide and conquer.