Samreen McGregor

Leadership Coach

What’s in a story? | Samreen McGregor

Samreen McGregor

Samreen is an executive advisor to business leaders and teams across industry sectors globally.  Samreen coaches at an important cross-section between strategic business context and profound behavioural change. 

Founder of Turmeric, a consultancy focussed on supporting business leaders and teams in generating breakthroughs in their market. Samreen also leads an innovative Leadership Coaching offering at Virgin Media O2 directing a dynamic faculty supporting business leaders to bring alive a historical joint venture upgrading the UK – re-imagining connectivity.

Samreen’s academic qualifications include a Bachelor degree in political science and economics, a Masters in Science in Business, Systems, Analysis and Design, Post Graduate Diploma in Psychotherapy and Accreditation in Executive Coaching from Hult Ashridge. Samreen is certified and uses the Theory of Constraints in her business consulting.

What’s in a story?

A vivid childhood memory is a conversation with my mother. I was 10 years old. “Don’t ever depend on anyone Samreen. Make your own money to support your family and you will secure yourself freedom and choice in life.”  Born in 1938, my mother was one of 9 siblings in a Venezuelan Catholic family raised in the Andes. To her father’s disapproval, she was determined to pursue her studies. One of 2-3 females in a class full of males was a typical environment during school, university and graduate studies. Her academic journey involved a Bachelor’s degree, a role as a statistics professor, to later secure an academic scholarship for her Masters at Stanford University.  Various roles as a director of statistics in utilities, oil and gas companies formed the heart of her 20-year leadership career, with her final tenure including a research fellowship at the London School of Economics, retiring from a data management role at the Venezuelan Embassy in London. To this day she remains married to my father, an equally ambitious professional, who is an amazing cook and fervent about playing his part to maintain the home.

How do our narratives underpin our choices?

My mother’s story influenced the narrative shaping my life. My identity is deeply rooted in being a mother with a personal purpose and a profession. Over a 25-year career, these forces have plucked away at my aspirations. Much like my mother I have had the privilege of education, admittedly in far easier circumstances. I have made choices to further my career despite great adversities. I am passionate in my work as an organisational consultant and executive coach to remarkable leaders, teams and organisations. I am also a mother of 2 resilient children, influencing the formation of their life narratives.

A 2018 an analysis of women’s impact at cooperative enterprises by IE University, indicated how “marriage, and household chores are the traditional obstacles that have prevented women leaders from achieving a balance between business and family. Women face more conflicts than men do when they decide to pursue a business career.”

Despite some movement in equalising the gender proportions in leadership, this more generic narrative poses a direct hinderance and requires us to proactively disrupt it.

What has shaped your life narrative? How does it affect conflicts you grapple with as a female leader?

What has the pandemic magnified?

A lifetime of dedicated work with my partner involving coaching, mentoring and therapy, has led to a bearable 18 months. For many clients, peers, friends, and cases I read about this does not seem to be the case.

The 2020 McKinsey Global Institute’s report on COVID—19 and gender equality reveals twice the number of women losing or leaving their jobs relative to men. Women shifting to unpaid home duties and childcare at a rate of 3 times that of men. Women experiencing violence at home, in some countries this statistic is as great as 70% during pandemic. It is hard not to draw correlations or speculate causes when reviewing this data, the pandemic is a valid amplification of a historical pattern.  Claims that men have not taken as much of the burden as women are commonplace in today’s media.

When I reflect on my own path, I notice that it is no coincidence that my husband and I earn, contribute to our family requirements, fulfil domestic duties and make decisions in totally equal terms.  Without a decisive strategy to achieve this as working parents, there is no doubt I would have the freedom to pursue my leadership career.  This, however, has been a constant negotiation and learning process for us both (a fractious one at times) – requiring us to surface, work through and let go of some of the family values, unconscious biases and deep-rooted norms that risked compromising my aspirations as a female leader as well as our marriage.

What norms might be holding you back given your aspirations? How easy or hard would it be to challenge them for you? For your supporting companions?

The current ‘new normal’

Working at home is relentless. Long days, in front of ‘back to back’ video meetings, checking in on home-schooling. This is especially challenging with a dyslexic and dyspraxic child. Ensuring we are nourished and fed. A non-negotiable for my partner and me, was to share the load. Our goal was to simultaneously safeguard our children’s livelihood and to subordinate to each other’s professional requirements. This means planning and prioritising in line with our work priorities and children’s demands.  For me it has meant that if I had a workshop to run or client to coach, my husband would be able to take the slack and support the kids. For him, it has meant that if he needs to run an online conference, I ensure I avoid scheduling anything that would not allow me to be available for the kids or able to silence the dogs. This also influenced how we prioritised the use of broadband until we invested significantly in technology to support all four of us online with minimal disruption. A hybrid context is likely to persist for some time now. 

Jennifer Petriglieri, in her book, ‘Couples that work’ advocates the need for a couple’s contract – a discipline to help us find and maintain common ground through an exchange of values, the negotiation of boundaries and the confrontation of our fears – a recipe to help couples figure out how to make their careers and lives work together. My story is one of a heterosexual couple and 2 kids, but her research involved a sample of couples diverse in age, nationality, sexual identity, with or without children.

How might you set up and review contracts to meet your needs, and in a way that does not compromise the needs of those around you?

Creating a new narrative for women leaders

Space, time and courage are needed for us to reflect on, accept and question influences from our life stories. I encourage female leaders I coach and mentor to explore values rooted in our formative years and consciously decisively adapt these.  My encouragement is to reach out to sponsors, mentors and coaches to generate clarity, confront consequences and be bold with setting and managing boundaries. If we do not role model this for our peers and future generations, how else will the narratives needed to promote women leaders transform more rapidly?

What will help you to make the space and get the support you need to adjust your narratives, relationship contracts and boundaries?

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