Karen is the co-founder and joint Chief Executive of Timewise, the UK’s first marketplace for candidates who want some flexibility on where and when they work.
Karen campaigns tirelessly to articulate the business benefits of quality part time and flexible work, whilst driving the growth of flexible working from day one across the UK.
In 2010, along with her co-founder Emma Stewart, Karen was made a MBE for her services to social enterprise. Over the years, she has won a number of awards for her work in the industry.
Describe a typical day for you?
I start work early, as I like to finish on time and I am much more productive in the mornings. I leave the house at 7.15am with my middle son – who is now 15 – and we walk to the station together.
My day usually consists of a combination of internal and external meetings with clients, as well as presenting on my favourite subject – fixing the UK’s jobs market for the millions of people who desperately want and need a flexible or part time job.
After 20 years of not exercising, I have also recently discovered spinning. Something I actually almost like! So if I can, I try and fit in a 45-minute class twice a week, too.
My evenings are usually spent with my three boys (17, 15 and 9) and my husband, watching TV (I just love TV – anything from Coronation Street, Masterchef to the Night Manager).
On my day-off (Fridays) I take my 9-year old to school, have coffee with friends or my sisters, and cook a big meal for the evening, when we usually have friends and family
What do you feel are your biggest achievements?
Launching Timewise along with my business partner, Emma Stewart. The journey that led us to launch what is now Timewise, was borne out of the desire to tackle the negativity that we both experienced ten years ago as candidates. We were frustrated at a jobs market that locked-out people like us – who were skilled, experienced and ambitious – yet simply wanted to work part time.
We run multiple services – from consultancy and training services, to the UK’s first jobsite for quality part time and flexible roles. We now have 80,000 candidates (both men and women) and have recruited for over 3,000 employers.
What’s in your handbag?
In my fantasy, it is terribly organised (one of my colleagues has a Velcro handbag organiser with everything from tissues, pens and hand cream). In reality, it is a big mess– but always sunglasses; headphones (for podcasts on the tube and when walking); Elizabeth Arden Eight-Hour cream; and my iPhone.
What are your ambitions in life?
There are a few….
To make a tangible difference to the UK’s jobs market, by growing the number of jobs advertised with flexible working options from 8.7%, for the millions of candidates who are locked-out of progressing their careers, because they have had to trade progression and pay for time.
To teach my boys to cook, to be kind and to be happy in their own skins.
What advice would you give your pre-baby self, that you now know?
Stop worrying about the next stage of life, and just focus on now. Throw away every parenting and baby book that you may be given, and trust your instinct and the friends and family you respect.
And don’t go on a diet, they don’t work for you!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
I really feel like I have the best job in the world – working with people I love, on a cause I feel passionate about. And should I ever find myself less busy at work, that’s because the flexible jobs market problem has been fixed – and what a great result that would be!
From a personal perspective, in five years’ time, two of my three boys will have left home… so I see myself with a lot more free time!
What advice would you give a budding social entrepreneur?
There are so many reasons why not to set up a business based on something you feel passionate about, and plenty of people queuing-up to tell you it won’t work.
My motto, is that you only regret what you don’t do, not what you do… So if you have a burning desire to set something up yourself, just go for it. When Emma and I set-up Timewise, we kept our day jobs for many months until we felt confident that this would be successful… There are many ways in which dreams can be achieved.
Finally, happiness is…
A glass of rose, in a lovely fish restaurant overlooking the sea, with good friends and At the end of May, Timewise launched the ‘Hire Me My Way’ – a national initiative to unlock one million quality job vacancies to part time and flexible working, ending the exclusion of flexible workers from decently paid jobs in the UK.
The Hire Me My Way campaign website offers candidates – for the very first time – visibility on who the UK’s best flexible employers are. Showcasing a range of employers that have made a firm commitment to ‘flexible hiring’ (being open to conversations about flexibility at the point of hire – from Day One), the website also offers FREE individual career advice for job seekers whether they are looking for a flexible job, or seeking internal promotion while working part time or flexibly.
If you are someone who needs flexibility in your next role, add your voice to the campaign and visit www.hirememyway.org.uk and join the conversation on www.facebook.com/HireMeMyWay and www.twitter.com/HireMeMyWay