Jill Altenburger and Nanette Steiner both worked full time in managerial positions before they had children. Nanette worked in product marketing and finance and Jill in sports marketing and events management.
Jill [pictured right] has a 15-month-old daughter, but found it difficult to find a suitable part-time position with less travel once she had had her. In Switzerland, where she lives, there is no right to request flexible working and employees have to rely on their employers’ goodwill.
She had a few interviews for new part-time positions, but they were all at a lower level than the qualifications and experience she had. In fact, she finished a master in marketing and sales just the month before her daughter was born.
She was not prepared to take a lower position simply because she had three months out of the workplace and wanted to work part time. In Switzerland paid maternity leave is just three months. Depending on the employer, women can take another three months on top of this unpaid, but have no legal guarantee that their job will be there for them when they return.
“I wanted a job that progressed my career not rather than taking me backwards,” she says. “I could not understand why I had to take a different job at a lesser level than I had done before just because I was a mother.”
Nanette, who has two children aged three and five, had similar problems. So the two women decided to set up an organisation which, like Workingmums.co.uk, advertises flexible challenging jobs which match women’s experience. Jobsfürmama [Jobs for Mums] goes live in the autumn. Before writing their business plan, the two women did their research with employers and mothers to find out what the demand and interest was.
Jill says the biggest challenge is undoubtedly trying to get across to SMEs in particular the benefits of flexible working and hiring mothers. “In Switzerland many people still think of mothers as being hugely stressed and often absent when their children are sick, although the statistics show the opposite is true. They are very efficient, organised people who can work well under pressure and in a team.”
So far the response has been positive, although the proof of the pudding will come in the number of jobs they advertise when the site goes live.
In Switzerland 58% of women work part time, compared to just 14% of men. Jill says the demand for flexible working is increasing, but most part time jobs on offer are more than 0.5 per cent roles. Childcare, says Jill, begins from three months and costs vary depending on the area where it is located (city or countryside) and whether it is subsidised or not. Private nurseries tend to be very expensive, particularly if you have more than one young child.
Nevertheless, more and more mothers want or have to work. In addition to flexible jobs, Jobsfürmama will offer advice and information on issues like how working part time affects health insurance and emergency childcare.
The site is working in tandem with two German women who are setting up a similar site in Germany. “We are trying to reduce our costs for set up and design and using a common brand image,” says Jill. “They had the same idea at the same time as us so we thought why not collaborate. There are similar issues in many countries.”
*Jill and Nanette will blog about their experiences in the lead-up to their launch.