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Jane Johnson from Careering into Motherhood talks to workingmums.co.uk about her ambition to make coaching more accessible to all women.
Jane Johnson set up her own recruitment business after facing problems finding a flexible role, but now she is moving into coaching as she believes this can give women the edge when it comes to negotiating for the jobs that will help them make use of all of their skills.
Jane has worked in corporate communications and marketing for around 20 years, largely in big financial firms. She managed to negotiate a job share on her return from maternity leave, the first time the bank had had a job share at director level. She says the job share worked very well for both parties. In 2016 she decided she wanted to move on to a fresh challenge as she was finding commuting challenging with a young child to look after.
She contacted various recruiters who had placed her before and not one of them would talk to her because she wanted to work flexibly. That didn’t mean she wouldn’t work full time. She just wanted a degree of flexible working. She was shocked that there were so many problems in a sector which is so female-dominated at the entry and middle levels and has such an obvious talent drain at the higher levels. She feels that her problems are partly the result of the way the highly competitive recruitment industry is run based on commission.
Jane decided to do something about it so she set up her own recruitment business, even though she had no inside experience of the industry. She knew lots of women who were in a similar position to herself, however, and she knew that employers like HSBC supported flexible working. Indeed her team at HSBC was very international and crossed different time zones, making flexible working a boon.
She was inundated with candidates, but it was harder to find employers who could offer flexible jobs. Jane felt bad turning other women, some in dire straits, down so in 2018 she set up a Facebook group where they could get support and share job adverts with other women in the same position. Soon after her mother became ill and then the pandemic struck. Jane decided to fold the recruitment business, but she had noticed that women who had been coached professionally were more able to negotiate flexible working, find a new job or start a business because their confidence levels were higher. During the pandemic she partnered with a career coach and trialled an online coaching programme to see if there was interest among her Facebook group, which now numbers some 15,000 women. Sixty women were successfully put through the programme in six cohorts with good results.
Jane [pictured right] decided to set up the Careering into motherhood platform and launched it at the start of this year to make coaching both more accessible and more transparent. The coaches on her site were already giving away a lot of useful content as part of their lead generation work. Jane’s platform brings all of this together in an online library which members can access free of charge. She adds that coaching is largely unregulated as an industry which means there can be a large discrepancy between the qualifications of different coaches. Her platform aims to make it easier for candidates to make their own choice by providing a directory of coach profiles with information about their background, their qualifications and fee structure as well as client testimonials. Women can search the directory for group or individual sessions.
The site also has downloadable tools, vlogs and a podcast. The coaches pay Jane a membership fee and Jane offers them help with marketing and access to clients in return. Many of the coaches – all of whom are women – are also keen to help to tackle gender diversity. Jane says she is very passionate about making coaching affordable to many and helping coaches to grow their businesses.
She believes firmly that coaching is not about fixing women. She sees it more as part of helping women have the career they want and about ‘life wellbeing’: women investing in themselves in order to achieve and earn more, particularly in the absence of any forthcoming government policies to help women in the near future.
Jane is also passionate about ensuring that the coaches in her directory are as diverse as possible. When she first launched the platform she was challenged about the diversity of her initial cohort of coaches and responding immediately, taking the site down to work on this. “We have been expanding the cohort to ensure that they are more representative of the women we are trying to help,” she says.
Since then an advisory board has been appointed, with the most recent signing being Ade Onilude, founder and Chief Executive Officer of the social enterprise, Women in Marketing, who will be responsible for scaling up the website. The organisation is also working on fostering partnerships on diversity and inclusion. It has partnered, for instance, with Young women for change which works with young women from underprivileged backgrounds and with diversity, equity and inclusion experts Good Soil Leaders.
“I believe so passionately that coaching and online support communities will be the way we help each other and build a world that works for women,” she says.