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Start-up and online platform Circle In is guiding parents how to navigate their parental leave.
Source:
SBS Small Business Secrets
23 Aug 2018 - 1:41 PM  UPDATED 27 Aug 2018 - 9:59 AM

Juggling kids and careers is a challenge Kate Pollard and Jodi Geddes know only too well.

The former corporate high-fliers left the boardrooms to bring up their children several years ago.

But on returning to work, the pair found the transition surprisingly difficult.

“I was really naive and I went off assuming my career was going to be OK, but when I returned 12 months later my confidence was really lost,” says Jodi.

“I was really naive and I went off assuming my career was going to be OK, but when I returned 12 months later my confidence was really lost". 

To help other working parents better handle the challenges they faced, Jodi and Kate started a business called Circle In.

“We spoke to more than 1,000 parents, 76% said they were worried about their career, and so we knew then pretty quickly it wasn’t just us,” Jodi says.

The free online resource launched last October, to help new parents navigate the often complex process of parental leave.

“On the first day we had 5,000 hits to our website, just in one day!” says Kate.

"Really what we’ve created is unique and there’s nothing out there like it,” Jodi adds.

Their aim over the next few years is to guide more than 50,000 working parents how best to apply for leave, remain in contact with their workplace while at home, and return to their careers without losing touch with their former roles.

The site offers tips, checklists, and templates, plus personal stories from parents juggling busy work and home lives.

“The real-life stories are the best bit,” says Jodi.

 “And it doesn’t matter whether you’re in regional Australia or you’re a General Manager, Circle in is for everyone.”

 “And it doesn’t matter whether you’re in regional Australia or you’re a General Manager, Circle in is for everyone.”

Information is distilled from more than 1,000 interviews with working parents and professionals.

The pair draws heavily on their former corporate contacts.

“A lot of the networks that were established in those early years of working, and later throughout my career, are now serving us very well from a business perspective,” says Kate. 

Though grateful for the support of their husbands, Kate and Jodi admit trading a corporate salary to start a new venture without much financial backing is a gamble.

“Right now we’ve self-funded everything,” says Jodi.

“We’ve even sold our house to free up capital, but it's enabling us to do things that we want to do, and are passionate about doing,” Kate adds.

“We’ve even sold our house to free up capital."

Recently Kate and Jodi shared their story as part of the Victorian Small Business Festival.    

“We’ve become part of a progressive women’s network and as a result, we were able to get time with our Premier, Daniel Andrews, and doors have been opened.”

The Victorian Government is pushing to tackle the gap in women’s pay and barriers to workforce participation.

New research shows that Australian women with children under five, and single parents with a child under 15, face an employment gap of about 25 percentage points compared to childless workers.

It also found mothers between 25 and 54 are working part-time, citing the high cost of child care as a major barrier to returning to full-time work.

Mothers between 25 and 54 are working part time, citing the high cost of child care as a major barrier to returning to full-time work.

“If we want to increase the number of females in the workforce, and in leadership positions, it all starts with getting parental leave right,” Jodi explains.

With only five percent of working men taking advantage of paid parental leave, Circle In is rolling out a corporate program with large companies including L’Oreal and Medibank Private, which was recently named Australia’s bets workplace for dads.

“The reality is that in Australia, only 18.6% of companies have a strategy,” Jodi explains.

“We went out and did a huge piece of research and 40% of respondents said they would not recommend their company as a place to work if they had a bad experience,” Jodi says.

“So what we’re really trying to do is help companies move from this being just a tick-the-box exercise, to genuinely supporting working parents” 

"If we want to increase the number of females in the workforce, and in leadership positions, it all starts with getting parental leave right."

Circle In has developed 48 online masterclasses, which will enable the business to build a fully scalable model. 

Jodi and Kate hope that major ASX companies will turn to Circle In resources as ‘best practise’ regarding parental leave.

“And I’d like to think in three to five years, Circle In goes Global,” Jodi says.

As far as their own experience of running a start-up:

“We are living the dream, we’re working hard but we’re living the dream and I think when you love what you’re doing – life couldn’t really be any better.”  

Watch this story at the top of the page, or catch the full episode on SBS On Demand.