Empowerment through expertise: Maslow and the fight to get working mums the respect they deserve

A startup founded by two Kiwi women is fighting to help mums get back into their careers and receive the equal treatment they deserve. It's long overdue.

Unfortunately, we know that the wage gap between women and men in Aotearoa (like it is in every country in the world) is a serious problem. Even worse, that wage gap is even more extreme for mothers, who usually have to take time off if they decide to have children – a move for which they’re penalised in the form of having to all but put their careers on hold, if they can even go back to their old job at all. Simply put, it’s a system that discriminates against women.

The people behind Maslow, a people and culture agency offering recruitment and HR services to the creative industries, know this. And they’re doing all they can to put an end to the discrimination and help working mothers earn the respect and equal treatment they deserve.

As well as providing quality talent and minimising large service fees, a large part of its purpose is to help mothers return to their careers after maternity breaks. Co-founder and director Vic Jack (who founded Maslow with Carlene Campbell) explains that, while the overall wage gap for women in Aotearoa is 12 per cent (meaning a woman is usually paid 88 cents for every dollar a man makes for the same work), it’s actually 17 percent for mums – and even higher for Māori and Pasifika women and women in certain industries.

Vic Jack.

“Historically we have been on the back foot somewhat,” she explains. “The reality is mothers tend to take the lion’s share of responsibility when families come into the equation.”

Jack says that Maslow’s goal is to help get mums back into careers, because the unfortunate reality is many mums are forced to go into unfulfilling part-time work or entry-level jobs far below their qualifications. “Our mission is simply to provide a personalised, cost effective (fixed fee) recruitment offering and bespoke HR consulting package to suit individual business requirements,” she says. “This allows you to then focus on what you do best, in the knowledge that your companies people and resourcing needs are being taken care of economically and effectively.”

And that’s not all.

“Carlene and I are both busy working mums and we know the challenges of returning back to the workforce after a break. We want to assist busy professional mothers to have flexible work arrangements, enabling a positive trajectory for their career and allowing businesses to employ valuable talent,” Jack explains. “One of our leading tenets is to provide great opportunities for our talent so that they can positively evolve in their career. We do this by building long-term relationships with our talent and clients, ensuring that with regular communication, we thoroughly understand your company, culture, and goals.”

Such a vision helps combat a “returnship” culture, explains Jack, adding that the term was coined by Goldman Sachs to refer to women who returned to work after having a child, typically in low-paying internship-style positions that included a formal review after three months. “It’s about redressing women being valued in the workplace,” she says. “Everybody should be valued for the talent that they have. It’s about challenging the status quo.”

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There’s a need to do just that. A February 28 report from Statistics New Zealand revealed that mothers make almost $5 an hour less than men on average ($23.40 an hour for mothers, versus $28.30 for fathers). The Empirical evidence of the gender pay gap in New Zealand report released on March 7 by the Ministry for Women (which revealed that the main reason women continuing to be paid less than men for the same work was due to “unexplained” factors) also further emphasises that misogyny and discrimination against women is unfortunately still very much a thing in Aotearoa. There’s also the sad stat from a Human Rights Commission project released on March 8 to mark International Women’s Day, which shows that the average New Zealand woman will earn $600,000 less than a man during her lifetime. And let’s also not forget Grant Thornton’s Women in Business: New perspectives on risk and reward report, in which the Land of the Long White Cloud was ranked 28th out of the 36 countries surveyed, with only about 20 percent of businesses led by women.

Launched on March 2, Jack says there’s a serious need for Maslow, just as there’s been a need for greater coverage being given to the issue of the pay gap for women in general and for working mothers. “We have to change the mindset,” she says. “It’s about making sure women have a true balance around wo they are and that confidence. There is a real need to look at change.”

Carlene Campbell.

In addition to Jack’s experience working in New Zealand and overseas in London (as well as her experience with Heroine, an online platform featuring inspiring stories from inspiring women), Maslow co-founder Campbell has more than 15 years of experience in HR, working for various corporate, manufacturing (union and non-union) and service environments. Such experience means she has both generalist HR skills and specialist capabilities in people and performance management, change management, conflict resolution and total business human resource strategies. “It’s my philosophy that HR practices are an enabler rather than a disabler,” she says. “I have a no BS approach, and I’m buzzword free. I want to work with you to help grow your business, your staff and ultimately your profits.’

Jack adds that, although it would be great if every woman, everywhere could be paid equally to men, even just helping one person receive the recognition they deserve (financially, career-wise, and simply being treated with the same level of respect everyone should have) is a success. “It might be just that little thing that resonates.”