If necessity is the mother of invention, then what do the necessities of mothers amount to? And who really is listening to them? RecruitMyMom was born as a result of those needs and has since changed the very definition of the workplace in South Africa. Here’s the story behind the brand, RecruitMyMom.
There’s a lot that can be learned in the short meeting times between shuttling kids around, on sports fields in the afternoon, at school fundraisers. Other moms are a wealth of information on where the sales are, who is the best paediatrician in town, how to get around a fussy eater. But few people can say that those conversations started a whole new business venture with long-term benefits for both mothers and organisations.
When more than one mom expressed admiration that Phillipa Geard was able to continue to run her marketing business from home and still be available to pick her kids up from school, serve lunch and supervise homework, Geard started listening to the subtext of these conversations. Reading between the lines, she heard women express their aspirations, frustrations, and their search for that elusive work-family balance. She realised that there was an untapped force of talented and skilled professionals for whom the option to continue to work while being a hands-on parent was simply a pie in the sky.
Competing with younger millennials for full-time work, clocking in for the typical 40-hour work week and doing the required overtime on demand was not a choice that many moms were willing, or even able, to make. Yet the desire was still there to work for all the benefits that work can bring: an income, the opportunity to contribute to the field in which you trained, to enjoy the brain boost and vibrancy of the workplace.
After trawling through other recruitment portals, Geard realised that recruitment agencies did not recognise the potential that mothers could bring to the workplace if given the opportunity to work flexitime. She started searching for a broader and more inclusive model of the workplace overseas but found that there was none that met the needs she heard expressed to her.
“Because I did not come from a recruitment background, I was able to approach it with fresh eyes, without preconceived ideas of how things should work,” she says.
And so RecruitMyMom was born, as an answer to that gap between motherhood and the workplace.
Initially, most of Geard’s efforts were targeted at employers, convincing them to look into the untapped force of mothers. Most part-time jobs that existed were for typists, data capturers, telemarketing and similar low-skilled jobs.
“Thanks to RecruitMyMom we have challenged this thinking and have enabled employers to see the massive benefits of employing skilled mothers into high-level positions such as financial managers, investment analysts, MD’s and more by offering them flexible working arrangements,” says Geard.
“From Day One, we were very intentional in ensuring that the message we gave employers was to source skilled moms.”
Slowly, Geard was able to get employers to create positions of mornings only, two days per week, remote work and other variations of flex-time. “It took about two years to move the quality of the jobs from administrative and office into higher level management roles,” she says. “It’s been a concerted effort for us to continue to seek and carve these kinds of niches within the work environment and to convince employers that they have an untapped skilled pool of talent.”
Bringing blessings rather than baggage
From the perspective of an employer, hiring a mom has raised the bar on both productivity and skills in the workplace. Motherhood brings with it the subset of lifestyle choices such as committed relationships, setting up a long-term home, placing children in schools, and the overall advantage is an anchored employee. For the employer, this translates into job loyalty and commitment.
“I use the term maturity reluctantly because that is often associated with age, but when you hire a mom, that is what you get, maturity,” says Geard.
“They also bring to their work a high work ethic and a sense of responsibility which makes them extremely focused on the task at hand. Because they know that they have a finite number of hours available to work and they value the opportunity to work, they are highly productive. They are not as likely to be job hopping and looking for the next promotion, which means that they make phenomenal teammates and mentors.
In everyday words, there is less drama.”
Anchorage rather than accommodations
Previously, making accommodations for mothers in the workplace typically involved having a space for them to express breastmilk, take maternity leave, and allow for family emergencies such as picking up a sick child. The unspoken message is clear, and often a hostile one: families are a baggage we have to work around. When it came to advancement and, in fact, even representation in the workspace, these were the unstated stigmas moms had to contend with that questioned their productivity and made them a less appealing candidate for employment in comparison to other single females or male counterparts.
The RecruitMyMom experience paints a different story. As an activist for flexible and part-time work, it has effectively created a different model for women in the workplace: carving the space to be highly efficient during working hours whether that is in the office or by working from home.
“When applying for a job on RecruitMyMom, our candidates don’t need to explain why they need flexibility or explain that they have children or dependents who may require them from time to time,” says Geard.
“That is a given. This immediately gives women more confidence when going for an interview.”
Design with the end in mind
During its early days, RecruitMyMom allowed employees to upload their CV’s, but soon found that many were deficient and lacking, so they moved towards a uniform template that all work seekers are required to fill in.
“Employers have told us that they love the consistency of our template because it creates a level playing field for choosing between competent candidates,” says Geard.
“The perimeters are set upfront. As an agency, we ensure we understand the needs of the employer as well as the needs of the candidate.” RecruitMyMom also requires moms to actively manage their applications, applying for each job that appeals to them. “We pass on the best matches to the employer and have them select the candidate that seems the best fit for the vacancy.”
Today, there are just under 40 000 moms on their database. While other recruitment agencies still require forms to be faxed (in 2017!), the RecruitMyMom website remains easy to use and accessible.
Practicing what we preach
True to its ethos of promoting part-time and flexible work and a work-from-home model, all recruiters are mothers. While Geard runs her home office around her family hours with two staff members, the other team members work virtually from home and staff meetings are online. “We all believe in the promise we offer and we have a high level of empathy for both client and candidate,” she says.
“There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come,” wrote nineteenth-century French playwright, Victor Hugo.
The championing of the place of mothers within the wider workforce will continue and be taken up by other employers, by other recruitment companies. Like every invention born out of necessity, this is an idea and model that will continue to grow.
“It is a personal passion to be able to see women work in the field that they have studied in,”
says Geard. “I hope that when my daughter is my age that being a mom and wanting to work flexibly is the norm and that specialist agencies like ours may not be pioneering but placing many more skilled women into meaningful employment.”