Arabian Business Entrepreneur of the Week: Mums@Work's Louise Karim

The start-up's managing director discusses the platform that helps mothers back into the workplace after taking a career break
Arabian Business Entrepreneur of the Week: Mums@Work's Louise Karim
Mums@Work's Louise Karim.
By Lubna Hamdan
Thu 06 Sep 2018 11:34 AM

It has helped over 3,000 mothers in the UAE get back into the workforce and balance their careers with their family lives. 

Now, recruitment platform Mums@Work, which offers mothers services ranging from CV writing and skills enhancement, is planning on expanding to offer opportunities to women beyond the UAE.

Funded entirely by its group company, Dubai-based recruitment agency Mackenzie Jones, the platform broke even just 18 months following its launch in 2016, while witnessing 100 percent year-on-year revenue growth, according to managing director Louise Karim. A mother of two boys, she explains the importance – and potential – of platforms that cater to the talents of women in the region.

Why is it important to offer mothers a platform like Mums@Work?

Women should not have to choose between their professional careers and family lives. We are working to educate companies in the UAE on the benefits that such untapped talent can bring to their organisations and, more importantly, to their bottom lines. Becoming a mother does not change your ability to have a career.

Having said that, globally and regionally, businesses are yet to fully embrace the need to provide flexibility for mothers in the workplace. This can be anything from part-time roles to simple flex core hours. So we provide training and support for mothers to help them get back to the workplace or even start their own business.

The third area is the lack of opportunity for women who have taken a career break. Many employees fail to see the worth of candidates who have taken a career break, which is why Mums@Work brought the “Returnships” concept to the region – which has been a huge success to date. It is a 12-week internship for experienced hires.

The programme gives a real opportunity for women to get back to the workplace in mid to senior positions. We brought the concept to the region in 2017 and have partnered with many corporates including EY, Visa, Standard Chartered, IBM, Grant Thornton and Noor Bank.

Where did the idea originally come from?

It came from the founder of Mums@Work, David Mackenzie, who is also the founder and managing director of Dubai-based recruitment agency Mackenzie Jones Group. David had been having lunch with a friend who, before having her child, was a lawyer. She was struggling to get a job after a four-year break and questioned David as to why this was happening. To quote her, “My DNA hasn’t changed”.

This struck a chord with David, who realised the untapped talent that was present in the region (and indeed globally), but was not being supported through regular recruitment companies and businesses. We also had to educate, advocate and change the traditional mindset of regional companies. It was not only the right thing to do for diversity, but we also knew it would attract untapped talent and create more innovative and successful businesses.

What advice would you give mothers wanting to get back into the business world?

Build your confidence and remember the skills you had before and after your break. For example, many mothers are great at multi-tasking. Your network is also important. Get yourself out of the house and reconnect with old colleagues and peers. Join networking evenings and events on topics that can support your career. Moreover, update your skills to remain relevant. For example, if you work in finance and VAT has been implemented while you were on your break, then you will need to get up to speed on the topic.

What are some of the challenges that come with running such a niche recruitment platform?

The only drawback to being so focused is that we have had many women who aren’t mothers wanting to join our community and are unsure if they can. However, we welcome all females to our platform and will be moving forward to making them feel more included.

How big is the team and do you have expansion plans for the future?

We are currently six people, which includes part-time, returnees and full-time members of the team. We have huge expansion plans, both in the UAE, Middle East and then further afield. It is important for us to find the right partner to grow with and to stay true to our vision. We are also already planning our first location outside of the Middle East. You can be fairly confident you will see us in the next five years as a global community.

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