Liew Sher-Li (BBA 1998)
Some say the term “working mother” is a misnomer as mothers are working full-time, all the time, even at work. Being a working mother is not the easiest job in the world, and she knows it. That’s why Liew Sher-Li (BBA 1998) founded Mums@Work in 2009. From a humble portal for mothers who want to find the perfect work-parenting balance, Mums@Work has grown into a comprehensive platform for mothers to look for flexible work solutions and career guidance. Sher-Li shares how her own experience had turned a simple idea into action.
Dealing with real moms with real work-life balance issues, what changes have you observed of mothers and women in general? What about society’s views of women’s roles, especially upon their transition to motherhood?
I genuinely see that there are many changes in the horizon for women, especially mothers, in Singapore. As our roles of employee and motherhood start to evolve in this highly-integrated and ever-changing environment, I believe that there will be an increasing demand by women to put more effort into this balancing act. It is true that the cost of living is higher. However, as we get more educated and gain more exposure to the world, we also start to value the quality of life more than we did in the past. Thus, mothers begin to realize that it is not just about providing as much money for your child; spending quality time nurturing them is also important.
What made you decide to start Mums@Work?
Upon returning to work after having my first child, I felt pulled in many ways. My work needed me, but so did my child. I then started looking at flexible work options out in the market, but realized that there was a limited number of such jobs for professionals and executive (degree holders and above). I realized then that there was no real solution for mothers who wanted flexible career options. There were also a few random sites for “Mumpreneurs” to seek advice from, and quite a few of them were linked to multi-level marketing schemes.
I thought to myself: “Why not set up a professional portal for mothers to seek out flexible career options, get advice and learn about starting small businesses while playing an active role as a mother at the same time?”
How has Mums@Work evolved?
When I started it, I had in mind a purely job-matching portal. However, as the membership grew, I realized that many of them were actually drawn to Mums@Work simply because a mother ran it. They were also interested to meet one another, participate in activities and go through training sessions together. It kept evolving – organically! And now, it has become a community of more than 3,800 (and still counting) women with common issues and common desires. I, therefore, had to expand the range of activities that was provided to them.
How does your child feel about your work arrangements?
As she is only turning three this year, she has never expressed her sentiments before. However, I do notice how close she has become to me. I attribute this to the business allowing me to be at home more often to be with her. The business also allows me to practice what I preach, which is work-family balance. I think she will grow to appreciate this. At this point in time, all I know is she likes that mummy is often at home.
What are some of the reasons behind Mums@Work’s success?
I think its success lies in the fact that it is a very unique kind of organization. As it is a social enterprise, I made sure it was equally socially responsible and profitable so as to benefit the mothers. I think this helped spearhead it a little since our target segment saw value in a business that tried to give back as much as it tried to earn for them.
Its growth has been facilitated by the fact that it is one-of-a-kind in Singapore, and that the women have been so supportive. Many of the member-mums are kind, and often help to spread the word about the portal to other mothers and even employers.
We are also quite flexible and adaptable to change. We are always ready to receive as much feedback as possible so that we can act on it and improve our services. Currently, we have a few corporate projects lined up that we are really excited about.
How has it helped you as a mother and a career woman?
Running Mums@Work as a social enterprise has taught me so much. I have learnt so much in the last two years about running a business. Because I do everything alone, starting from scratch – that means having to roll my sleeves up and learn the ropes – it has been a humbling experience. Yet, at the same time, I now have greater confidence and believe that I can do anything.
In addition, meeting other like-minded mums has let me discover the common problems we face, and realize that I should treat myself well without expecting to be super-woman all the time.
I have also met lots of women who are just amazing – those who run a small home business and have four children without any help from a domestic helper. They truly inspire me to become an even better mother.