Sydney startup FlexCareers wants to help mothers get back into the workforce with flexible roles

- October 12, 2015 3 MIN READ

The issues of maternity leave and returning to work after having children are perennial hot topics, and for good reason. There are around 2.1 million ‘career mums’ in Australia, and many of them are working in roles that don’t properly cater to their needs. Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that 55 percent of mothers with school age children were working part time in 2010-11, with 10 percent of these women wanting to work more. However, it’s difficult to find the kind of role and employer that allow for the degree of flexibility that many mothers often require.

Former investment bankers Joel McInnes and Marko Njavro have come up with what they hope can be part of the solution after noticing the lack of women around them on the trading floor. FlexCareers is a job board dedicated to mothers searching for flexible roles.

“Seeing my own wife trying to get back into the workforce after being a stay-at-home mum for a few years, it was tough. Speaking to Emily and her friends, they told me that flexible roles were not easily found,” McInnes said. The idea formed into something more concrete the week before Christmas last year.

The platform works much like any other job board: a job seeker creates a profile outlining their experience and type of desired roles, and can then either search for roles manually or apply for those they get matched with by the Flex Careers algorithm.

McInnes and Njavro decided to turn their idea into reality around Christmas last year. The platform had a soft launch six months ago, and has since grown to a community of over 10,000 job seekers, with jobs posted from companies including Commonwealth Bank, NAB, HSBC American Express, PwC, and KPMG, as well as small businesses. The platform is free for candidates, while companies pay a fee of $150 per job ad; there are plans in place to create an unlimited access database product over the next few months.

Given the fact the two founders were investment bankers, it comes as no real surprise to see so many corporates already on board; McInnes said they were very keen to join.

“In our discussions with the top corporates, during the early stages as we validated the business concept, we found that they were very supportive of the idea and wanting to access this unique community. They’d been trying all sorts of ways to do this, but this community had traditionally been quite disparate,” he said.

They grew the candidate pool by engaging with a number of mother’s groups, professional associations, and referral partners. The FlexCareers community – and the users it is targeting – is highly engaged and eager to connect and learn. As such, FlexCareers isn’t just a job search platform, with the startup offering training and re-accreditation courses and Relaunchships, a programme helping women become confidently career-ready.

“Our community has asked for the right level of support to be confidently be career ready and our employers have asked for the right level of training and support to be ready and capable to lead a flexible team. This makes the idea of flexible work sustainable and our community increasingly valuable,” McInnes said.

Employers and job seekers are also able to engage in conversation about career and work flexibility.

Job search platforms seem like they’re a dime a dozen right now, but the growth of the FlexCareers user base and the calibre of companies the founders have already gotten on board show that there is a need for a platform catering to this specific market. Expanding the FlexCareers offering to include training and other support services is also an interesting move.

While McInnes and Njavro have done the leg work getting the platform off the ground, they have realised that the people who best understand women and their particular needs are, well, other women, and have named Nikki Hobin as CEO and Rhonda Brighton-Hall as chair.

“We knew what we wanted to do, but we didn’t know everything we needed to know and we were keen to bring in different thinking. We needed complementary skills,” McInnes said.

The initial development of the platform was funded by McInnes and Njavro, who also secured a $250,000 investment from two family businesses. They are planning on raising more capital by mid-next year to fund further development of the platform and marketing, with the first key goal for FlexCareers to grow the candidate community to 100,000 users.