It struck me the other day that SparkUp is part of a growing trend: women-led workplaces. This isn’t by design (and actually, we have male contractors popping up here and there for everything from website design to work in our warehouse), but overall, our core staff are women and most of us are mums.
Studies show women-led businesses or blue-chip firms with women on their boards do better and get better returns, but taking things back to basics – I think it’s about that fact that many of those women are juggling families, and they’re masters at getting shit done.
The SparkUp story
When I started SparkUp 15 years ago, I’d decamped from the very male-dominated agency world. My sister Anissa quickly came on board and together we had the contacts, the experience and the drive – and we wanted a solution where we could use our talents and still raise our families without something having to give. We’re not alone in that: according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics women in this country make up 34 per cent of all small business operators – and that’s on the rise compared to previous decades.
Why? Maybe because when women have children, they can feel ‘locked out’ of the workforce or find it super hard to find a corporate slot they fit in. Making it to a social work event is a military operation rather than something you do on a whim – and most large corporate workplaces shy away from the ‘f’ word (flexibility).
The knock-on effect from all that is a tragic loss of talent: women who don’t necessarily want motherhood to define them and who have a helluva lot to contribute – and in some cases, are even more ambitious than they were before, but can’t find a way back in that works for them. Is it any wonder they go into business for themselves?
Why working mums are assets
There are all kinds of initiatives to help women re-enter the workplace – and it’s my hope that employers at large will get the memo: that women returning to work after having kids are actually assets, not liabilities. I know from personal and professional experience that working mums don’t procrastinate and they know more about being organised and getting the job done than employees who can only really be relied on to turn up to Friday drinks each week.
Just take this study a couple of years ago by Ernst & Young, which found that working mothers actually waste the least amount of time while at work – because they can’t afford to. The research found that part-time working women were the most productive, wasting 11.1 percent of their time compared to 14.5 percent for the rest of the workforce.
That’s borne out in our business, too.
We encourage part-time work, and over the years, we’ve hired working mums from all walks of life – to provide support in the office or pack in our warehouses. What’s come from that is understanding. Most of the women who work here are all in the same boat, juggling multiple commitments, and that’s fostered a great understanding that only helps productivity.
Plus, creating a workplace that empowers your staff can only mean they enjoy coming to work – and your reward will be high staff retention (seriously, I can’t remember the last time someone quit around here.) A huge part of that is communicating often and making flexibility a given, because we all know sick toddlers are a fact of life.
We’ll of course hire the best person for the job. But if that happens to be a working mum, we’re more than all right with that.