This is a guest blog by Rebecca Grainger, CEO and founder of Triiyo, a customised platform that transforms the parental leave experience for employees through enhanced communication, engagement and connectivity.
Currently 11 weeks into the Xcelerate program, Rebecca has uncovered a lot of truths about being a woman in her 40’s, a mum and a startup founder!
Bootcamping the Idea
In May, I applied for a place in startup accelerator program Amatil Xcelerate, a collaboration between BlueChilli and Coca-Cola Amatil.
Within a week I’d made it into the top 40 and my life changed.
The next three weeks were the fastest, steepest learning curve I’ve ever had. I was pushed way out of my comfort zone and under intense pressure to do “all the things”. Predominantly validating my problem before pitching my business idea, Shark Tank style, to get into the 6 month program.
The First Big Pitch
In the week before Pitch Day, I stayed up night after night practising my 5 minute pitch. I’d go to bed at 2am, only to be woken by my toddler at 6am, but it wasn’t going to be forever (right?!).
I knew the fundamental problem I wanted to solve deeply. I had been living and breathing the problem for years in my own coaching business. By the time Pitch Day arrived, I was deeply invested in my idea and passionately wanted to succeed.
The taste of startup life was addictive!
The Problem for Parents
For more than a decade I’d been a recruiter, with 90% of clients asking me to include women on the shortlist.
When I became pregnant, I experienced discrimination first hand. I left the recruitment world and set up my own career coaching business supporting women transition from corporate life to motherhood and then back to work.
It became alarmingly apparent that women were being written off the moment they reproduced. Yet these women were at the peak of their career and wanted to continue in a job that challenged them – otherwise why be away from their children?
The Problem for Employers
It was crazy. Companies were losing their best talent purely because of an inability to engage females through the very common journey of pregnancy, leave and back into work.
The gross gender-pay and super-gap, and gender inequity that still exists at work in undeniable.
Recent research clearly demonstrates the benefits to families of fathers taking an active role in caring responsibilities, which consequently creates opportunities for women to participate more in the workforce.
And that’s where my business idea came from.
After Parental Leave
Managers are generally ill-equipped to effectively manage an employee through pregnancy, maternity leave and back into work, invariably they end up doing nothing: a classic case of out-of-sight, out-of-mind.
Worse still, research from Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) National Review Supporting Working Parents: Pregnancy and Return to Work (2014) shows that 49% of women experience discrimination at some point during this period, resulting in 32% seeking a new job or resigning.
The Solution of Support
If I could support businesses, to support their managers, to support their people better through this transition via improved communication, connection and belonging, then women would remain in the workforce.
Businesses wouldn’t lose female staff only to have to re-recruit and they would reduce the risk of discrimination. The cost of losing one member of staff alone makes it a valuable investment to reduce attrition, estimated at 150% of the annual salary by AHRI (Australian Human Resources Institute).
The AHRC report shows a positive ROI for managing pregnancy in the workplace and the benefits of increased gender diversity in terms of better efficiency, performance and innovation; increased access to the female talent pool; and improvements to organisational reputation.
It’s a win-win.
Women in Tech Startups
I’m certainly not your stereotypical startup entrepreneur, as a woman, in her 40’s and a mum! But I’m joining an increasing number of women founders, as highlighted in the 2017 Start Up Muster report that shows 24.5% of tech startups were founded by women in 2017, up from 23.5% the following year.
As the top accelerator in Australia, BlueChilli continues to push boundaries and set new benchmarks. As a woman, outside of BlueChilli I would be a minority, but the Amatil X Xcelerate program is proudly 55:45% of men:women in their founder representation.
The number of female-founded companies receiving investment is still low on a global scale, with an average of only 4.4% receiving VC investment. Women-led ventures are highly underfunded, even though (funded) female founders deliver 35% higher ROI than male led firms.
The good news is that Australian venture capitalists are investing more and more in female founders, with latest stats suggesting 26% of investment went to female founders or co-founders.
In addition, current research shows that the most successful startups are founded on average at 45 years old, and those with prior experience in the same narrow industry as their startup were 85% more likely to be highly successful.
So as a 40-something woman who has worked in this niche for over a decade, and as a mother who has a deep understanding and passion to create change for working parents, I believe I have a fighting chance of success.
What Success Looks Like
The tech world moves so fast. We aren’t building the end product, we’re building an MVP (minimum viable product) that early adopters (I like to call them “progressive business partners”) can pilot.
In tandem with our partners we’re iterating and testing, then iterating and testing some more to develop a product organisations want to use – and that will actually make a difference.
We launched phase one on 3rd September and are actively seeking organisations to pilot with us. If you’re an employer who wants to enhance engagement and experience of employees during parental leave (and in doing so address gender equity), please get in touch.
BlueChilli are excited to build startups that herald real change within our communities.
That’s why Triiyo exists. To achieve systemic change for working parents by increasing women’s opportunity to participate in the workforce post parental leave, and by including men we’re driving gender parity, enabling all carers to participate fully in work and at home.
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