Mothers Mean Business new Leeds entrepreneur venture

The brainchild of Abbie Coleman – an experienced recruitment consultant from Leeds – Mothers Mean Business (MMB) is much like an online magazine. It brings together all the information, career advice and advancement support that a working mother needs for their career and business life, alongside an online jobs board showcasing flexible and part-time employment opportunities throughout the region.

The goal is to prevent large pools of mid-senior level talent being lost from the business environment when women enter parenthood, says Abbie. “There shouldn’t be so many difficulties combining being a good mother with having a successful and progressive career.”

Despite almost 15 years’ recruitment experience, Abbie didn’t realise how much change was required within the employment landscape until she became a mother herself in November 2013. She elaborates: “I started speaking to some amazing mothers about part time roles I was recruiting for. Time and again I saw women with a wealth of experience considering roles well below their pay grade and ability, simply because it was the only flexible employment available.

“So I dug a little deeper and soon acknowledged that, for some reason, the need for part time hours seems to exclude women from the business table they previously sat at. We typically only see lower level positions – ‘jobs’ not careers – available on a part-time basis. As a result, valuable talent is being mothballed. If we don’t embrace the fact that women may have children and may need flexibility within the workplace, how will we ever see more females in the boardroom instigating positive business change?”

Initially aimed at women – and employers – in Yorkshire, the longer term aspiration is for MMB to become the ‘go to’ site for working mums throughout the UK. And only a few weeks in, it seems to be attracting the right attention, with some big names from the worlds of business, sport and television showing their support.

Leeds actress Angela Griffin, GB para-cycling athlete Caroline Wareing and The Apprentice star Claire Young have already taken part in MMB’s quick fire interview, as has nursery owner and hard-working mother Helen Gration, wife of BBC Look North presenter Harry. Advice-led blogs have also flooded in from regional professionals including Leeds-based Consilia Legal, equality law specialist Ceri Widdett, and Catherine Baker – founder of Sport and Beyond – who is currently working with the Yorkshire Rows team of four working mothers.

Abbie continues: “The support we’ve had so far is astounding. I hope this shows that we’re trying to do something different. There are a number of fantastic blogs, forums and networks out there for women to investigate job opportunities, and elsewhere pick up family, home and lifestyle tips. But we’re yet to find a dedicated hub that brings together the support, advice and current affairs articles needed to have a successful career as a working mother.

“It may sound clichéd but we want to empower women to advance their careers in roles best suited to their skills, regardless of their parental status, whilst educating the Yorkshire business community about how to make flexible employment work. Part time hours needn’t cause as many obstacles as they currently do.”

Grant Thornton’s recent report Women in business: the value of diversity found that companies perform better when they have at least one female executive on the board. “Organisations therefore need to ensure this talent isn’t lost due to the need for part time hours,” urges Abbie. “In fact, for many SMEs this is a fantastic way to benefit from a senior skill-set, without the cost of a full time salary.

“Whilst the Government’s push to get more women into the boardroom is reportedly progressing well, a mindset shift is still required in a number of UK firms. But this isn’t about pointing the finger – too much time is spent doing that already. Rather than simply blaming businesses, or grumbling about childcare costs, we need to pool our skill-sets to ensure mothers can return to the careers and salaries they deserve.”

Abbie is already on the hunt for another part-time employee to support her business expansion over the next 12 months.

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