Gender equality startup WORK180 has secured $1 million from seed investors including Skip Capital – the private investment fund of Atlassian Co-CEO Scott Farquhar – to fuel the international rollout of its unique jobs platform.
WORK180 (formerly known as DCC Jobs) was launched in 2015 by co-CEOs Gemma Lloyd and Valeria Ignatieva to disrupt the traditional jobs board model, and it is the only jobs platform in Australia or New Zealand that pre-screens employers to ensure they support women’s careers.
To list jobs on WORK180, organisations must meet a gender equality benchmark informed by criteria, including pay equity, flexible working, women in leadership and paid parental leave. This information is made publicly available to job seekers through the WORK180 website.
Atlassian, Microsoft, CommBank, BHP, NAB Caltex, Xero, MYOB, Telstra, Qantas and the NSW Government are amongst WORK180’s notable clients, and the startup has enjoyed a 400% spike in job listing in the last three months alone.
WORK180’s seed round was led by Skip Capital with additional funding contributed by the co-founders of Lux Group, Thomas Rice (Lead Tech Analyst, Perpetual), and startup accelerator Startmate. Lloyd and Ignatieva are launching WORK180 into the UK tomorrow (19 April) and will use the capital raised to continue the company’s international expansion, with a US launch scheduled for 2019.
In conversation with Dynamic Business, Lloyd discussed WORK180’s seed investment round and the importance of not compromising on her values even if it means rejecting investors and employers. She also spoke about the logic behind her company’s recent rebrand and areas where Australian employers fall short when it comes to achieving gender equality.
DB: How has WORK180’s seed round validated your mission?
Lloyd: The speed at which employers have come onboard with Work180 and the extent to which the platform has resonated with job seekers has provided us with a huge amount of validation. However, the investment we’ve received from our seed investors validates what we’re doing on a different level, in that it’s become very clear that we’re not just another jobs platform. When we first started speaking to investors, the question was “Isn’t this just a jobs platform with a woman-friendly badge on it?” Now that investors realise that instead of job seekers getting screened, we’re screening employers – and employers are handing over confidential information such as their employee engagement survey results – they see that WORK180 is a gamechanger, that we’ve flipped the jobs board model on its head.
DB: What makes your seed investors a good fit for WORK180?
Lloyd: They’re very passionate about the mission we’re driving, which was one of the prerequisites for coming onboard with us. Three years ago, Valeria and I turned down a $1 million investment from a private equity company. We had just launched and were in a huge amount of financial strife but the investor wanted us to ditch our minimum benchmark for accepting employers, which would have meant anyone could advertise with us – this went against our values.
DB: How do you help employers become more accountable?
Lloyd: Employers who meet our gender equality benchmark are qualified to advertise on our platform and we also provide feedback. For example, QinetiQ – a defence company with around 350 staff in Australia – was initially rejected from advertising with us about six months ago. Due to that rejection, they’ve not only fixed their pay gap, they’ve increased paid parental leave from four weeks to 16 weeks and implemented a flexible working policy. For a company’s HR team to be able to take our feedback to their executive and say “here’s where we’re struggling to attract top talent, here’s how we compare to similar organisations – we need to do better” is incredibly powerful. When an organisation embraces the data and insights we provide them, we see that as an investment in improving their policies.
DB: Do clients treat the WORK180 as a competitive advantage?
Lloyd: Absolutely. The reason employers value our platform is that we turn down those who don’t meet our benchmark. Those who do make the cut are not only seen to be advocates of women having equal opportunities, they’re also achieving incredible results. We’re getting employers up 50 times more female applicants than job platforms like SEEK.
It’s not uncommon for companies to not have a focus on diversity and equal opportunity – not due to malicious intent, it’s through lack of education in this space. By bringing to people’s attention the research around gender equality – namely, it boosts productivity, employee engagement and profitability while reducing staff turnover – and by highlighting what great companies are doing, we’re getting more people on board.
DB: Have you ever removed employers from your jobs platform?
Lloyd: Yes, we’ve dropped employers before but it doesn’t happen too often. There was one company that initially qualified to advertise wth us…but then it became very apparent that they didn’t offer a good place to work, so we dropped them. Yes, the employers pay our bills but first and foremost, we’re here for the female community. Valeria and I started WORK180 to drive change and we have it in our terms that we will break with employers who don’t live up to our expectations.
DB: Where do employers commonly fall short with your criteria?
Lloyd: Surprisingly, the biggest one is paid parental leave. We recently interviewed a global IT company with 10,000 employees and they only had three weeks maternity leave, which is crazy. At WORK180, we’re a team of eleven and we offer six weeks paid parental leave for both the primary and secondary carers, whether they’re male or female. It’s not just the right thing to do, there are incredible financial benefits in terms of staff retention and attracting top talent. So, we reject a lot of companies based on their paid parental leave policy.
Another area where employers fall short is pay equity. A lot of companies put it in the ‘too hard’ basket but it’s not hard at all! You measure it… and then you fix it. That’s all. There’s a great company called Zendesk, who’ve changed how they conduct their interviews. They no longer ask job seekers what their previous salary was because they found a lot of women were saying they were earning less than men. Their view is “we don’t care what salary you earned in your last job, we will pay everyone fairly and equally”.
DB: Why did you and Ignatieva rebrand from DCC Jobs to WORK180?
Lloyd: The rebrand was undertaken to coincide with our international expansion. We’re launching in the UK with a flagship group of companies including Microsoft, Schneider Electric and six others who were recommended WORK180by our existing clients.We wanted to change our name to something that truly reflected our mission to do a power flip with the jobs board model – that’s where the 180 element comes in. We think WORK180 tells a stronger story than DCC Jobs.