Allison Green: Senior Vice President, Chief Diversity Officer and Head of Employee Engagement, Lincoln Financial

As Allison Green (M.A. ’95) was winding down her graduate studies in psychology and preparing for what she thought would be a career as a psychotherapist, a brochure on display at Howard University’s School of Business caught her eye: “It had an African American woman on it. She had this hard hat on, and a bunch of men were walking behind her. And I thought, ‘I might want to do that.’”

Allison Green

Green said she could see herself being in charge of one thing or another in a corporate sphere long dominated by men. She could see herself breaking barriers.

“The woman with the hard hat became my mentor,” she added. “She was the general manager of the [Hay Group’s] Philadelphia office. She’d sent their recruiters to Howard back then. She’d said, ‘I want more people who look like me working here.’ ”

Green did get hired at Hay, initially, to do psychological assessments for companies that contracted Hay, a global management consultancy. From that point on, Green has stayed on her singular fast track, gaining experience in marketing, human resources and other business sectors. She’s worked for pharmaceutical giant Wyeth and for investment leader Vanguard; the latter was the first company to tap her to help its workforce better mirror the world’s rainbow of people.

“They said, ‘You know the company, you know our culture, you know who we are as leaders. We want to get better at this diversity work and we trust that you can lead us in the right direction,’” Green said. “I was very flattered by that. What that taught me, from a career standpoint, is that sometimes others see things in you that you do not see in yourself.”

The experience at Vanguard helped pave the way for Green, in 2009, to be sought out by Lincoln Financial. Today, she is senior vice president, chief diversity officer and head of employee engagement, overseeing diversity initiatives and shaping the corporate culture at the 9,000-worker insurance and financial services firm. Lincoln is No. 187 on Fortune’s list of the top 500 firms in the United States. And Forbes has twice named the Philadelphia-based company among the best places for women to work.

“I treat diversity as a business opportunity,” said Green, who made Black Enterprise’s 2019 list of the Most Powerful Women in Corporate Diversity. “It’s become a passion. It’s brought me full circle. Growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, under [staunch segregationist] George Wallace’s governance, you definitely know the value, the necessity of civil, equal and human rights.”

That history, indeed, is a reference point for Green, especially as the United States grapples anew with people’s differences and commonalities and societal divisions that sometimes show up on the job.

“When big things do happen—such as the shootings in [El Paso]—a note from our CEO goes out, reaffirming our commitment to diversity. I weigh in with my opinions, and I’m never short of those,” Green said. “My advocacy becomes stronger. But the way I advocate may have to look different. There are situations where we challenge each other; andsituations that may require influence and persuasion. Sometimes you may have to write to lay out the moral imperative. Sometimes, you have to lay out the dollars-and-cents need for diversity.”

Part of her approach involves conducting listening sessions with Lincoln’s personnel. “Given the external environment, what do you need when you come inside to work?” That’s one of the questions she’s asked workers to answer.

“Howard taught me how to administer psychological assessments,” said Green, who earned a bachelor’s degree from Spelman College. “Howard taught me about tenacity. I bring that to the work every day. What I appreciate about both of my HBCU experiences is that they eliminated barriers—the racial barriers that we face. Having the opportunity to learn, grow and flourish without that barrier, I know what that’s like. So, I keep that feeling. I don’t immediately think about barriers. I think of who I’m supposed to be and what I’m supposed to be. I let that be the leading force.”

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