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Kate Sykes - Director and Founder, Careermums

Kate Sykes
'After doing research, I realised there was a massive service gap for skilled parents going back into the workplace. '

Kate, 34, is the director and founder of Careermums, a national online jobs board, established in December 2006, that provides support for pregnant women and mothers re-entering the workforce.

A mother herself, Kate opted for a career change after 13 years in marketing and communications when she founded a business committed to improving the careers of mothers.

With 8000 registered job seekers, 1500 registered employers and 20 000 visitors to the website each month, Kate's business success shows she's quite the super mum.

Why did you start your own business?

I always wanted to start my own business, but it took a while to find something that I had a huge passion for.

Why do you think your business has been so successful?

After doing research, I realised there was a massive service gap for skilled parents going back into the workplace. Careermums is a niche service that gives parents a safe zone that addresses their specific needs, concerns and challenges.

How has your career progressed so far?

Working in marketing and communications for 13 years prior to Careermums, I had no experience in recruitment or human resources. I found a business associate, Emma Walsh, who's the founder of Mums@Work – a provider of career guidance services for mums - supported me in these areas. It's critical to have those particular skills for running this kind of business.

Emma and I share our expertise which works well for both our businesses. She gave me the skills I lacked, and I've provided her with the marketing and communication skills that she required.

I've also got two mentors who are business owners and there's nothing better than to talk with these experienced professionals every couple of months.

What's it like working from home?

It's lonely when you start your own business. In the workplace you know you're going to have social interaction and see Susie, John and Sandra each day. That doesn't happen when you run your own business so you have to build your networks as you go along.

What do you want for the future of Careermums?

We want to be the number one job website for parents, to create trust, and to provide help for parents going back into the workplace.

What do you think are some of the challenges in the workplace at the moment?

Many employers are unsure about how to help mothers re-enter the workplace. So we wanted to give them a comprehensive guide so employers can easily bring skilled mothers back. We're just about to launch a working parents tool kit for employers, which is a guide about parental leave and how to return to work.

Are employers recognising the advantages of being family friendly workplaces?

Yes they are – but I think at this stage it's out of necessity due to the national skills shortage.

What problems do mothers encounter in the workforce? 

In a recent questionnaire, we asked employees if their employers tried to retain them while on parental leave. 70 per cent said 'no' so there's a lot to be done to ensure companies don't lose these valuable workers who have such good corporate knowledge.

The other problem is that many women need flexibility when they come back to work, but there's a perception that if you're part time, you're not serious. We want to show employers the advantages of taking on board career mums so more employers can provide the flexibility that they need.

How do you balance your own work and home life?

I've got two young children, so life is busy. I work about three days a week and also at night, so it's usually the equivalent of full-time work. I play with the kids on the weekend with a notebook and pen by my side.

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