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Military mum launches mothers-only recruitment model

Mum’s the word! Trailblazer and Founder of RecruitMum, Clare Russell, is redefining the role of women in the workforce by challenging preconceived notions of motherhood across the recruitment and staffing sector in New Zealand.

Clare Russell builds things – from bodybuilding to building brand campaigns, people and businesses, she rarely stops. Clare is a mother, a military wife, a woman juggling part-time work, while catapulting a new social enterprise, and comes with an impressive business background.

Clare has a degree in business and commerce which has helped to drive her 15 years’ experience in marketing - she said that her background in understanding customers is ultimately what led her to develop her social enterprise business, RecruitMum.

While living in the UK, Clare began working for her sister’s recruitment firm where she spent considerable time managing the local workforce of physios, creating lead-gen, doing invoicing and vetting candidates for prospective employers; it was during this time she realised there was a deeper passion for the industry but this wasn’t to be fully realised until later down the track.

As a military wife, Clare and her daughter Mila were used to moving around the countryside and experienced lots of challenges in finding work and developing bonds within local circles.

“I was working in Blenheim {New Zealand} - it’s a very small town that is heavily reliant on the wine tourism trade, and I was finding it really difficult to land a role in marketing,” Clare said. “I knew I had the experience in marketing – more than enough, and I had certainly appreciated enough wine to be able to talk about them confidently. But it wasn’t enough to get me an interview.”

“It was bloody frustrating. I knew I had good talent and I knew my trade but there was a perception that I was too transient and time-poor as a parent to be of any strong value…But that’s ridiculous, many people move on from roles in far less time and juggle family and part-time work well.”

This was the turning point for Clare when she realised it was time to tick off her bucket list plan.

“Everything in my career had been leading up to this. I wanted my own business, I had been frustrated in not being able to find meaningful work as a mum, and I wanted to help other mums access the job market again…and to stay in it,” Clare said.

“Speaking with local mothers in Blenheim, we began to challenge and draw inspiration from each other. I realised there was a need in this group of women but thought I needed to test the validity of this market more widely before going full steam ahead in creating a business.”

Clare applied her marketing prowess towards social media, setting up groups that targeted women with many commenting on how great the idea was and asking why no one had taken it on before.

“Before I knew it, I had 100% buy-in from the candidate side,” Clare said. “I had engaged the community and validated the need for the work and so everything needed to pivot towards finding employers that could provide the ‘golden hours’ – around 20 per week, and over three to four days that is what the candidate pool were saying they wanted.

“Soon the network was 300 women strong but I realised to take that further, I needed a website and some cash! I went to Council with my business plan and they funded the cost of the web build. With that I started attending local networking meets and that’s where I landed my first client.”

Clare met Veronica who ran a local food rescue operation and the two felt the synergies immediately.

“Veronica wanted to appoint a GM for her business, and I wanted to help her,” Clare said. “I ran a social campaign across Seek and LinkedIn and the top candidate turned out to be a woman who had a proven background in the media space for a big corporate. She was a classic example of someone who had the experience but had had enough of the corporate way of life.

“She wanted to do something fun and meaningful, was prepared to take a pay cut, albeit a little worried that she had never worked for a charity before. However, she had great energy and a strong history of sales and marketing skills – and she turned out to be my very first perfect-fit placement.”

Clare said that part-time working mums deserve to be considered for long-term opportunities as often they would demonstrate as much value as a full-time worker as they knew their time to prove themselves and to embed themselves each week was limited.

“When you’re a mum, time management is something you become very good at,” she said. “So many mums are able to balance part time work and family life brilliantly, and they’re wanting that. That want to find meaning in their work and an employer that will value that contribution of time management skills and experience.”

But Clare said this was just the beginning of the process.

“Attracting the right working mums is only part of the journey,” Clare said. “Once a business has them, it needs to show that they understand and value their unique contribution.

Mums need to be challenged – they likely had successful careers in the past and need to be paid accordingly. They need responsibility and work that is not demeaning to the years of study and experience they devoted prior to having a family.

“Yes, they need balance but today it’s easier than ever to offer this,” Clare said. “People don’t need to be at desks every hour of their day anymore. Businesses need to think about how they can entrust people to achieve their goals, and equally, on the employees terms. If deadlines and needs are being met, does it matter if they’re not at their desk every hour? It’s time to do away with the traditional mentality of bums on seats; it might have worked ten years ago, but it’s becoming less and less attractive to candidates from all walks.”

Clare said the long-term gains from placing mums into employment was limitless.

“Getting mums back to business just makes sense,” she said. “Strong families make for stronger communities. If we can have mums actively contributing to the financial economy and the social economy, we will see greater reductions in the amount of people and families experiencing financial dependency, poor mental health, family violence and social isolation.”

Clare said that 2021 would be an interesting year for RecruitMum.

“The learnings I’ve received from RCSA have been excellent and it has helped to position the goals for the business,” she said. “One of the biggest things I’ve been hearing is that a lot of women are prepared to re-train…and into historically male-dominated industries.”

RecruitMum is gearing up to place women across construction, mechanical trades, engineering and IT.

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