Karen Mattison

Ashoka Fellow
United Kingdom
Fellow Since 2011


This profile was prepared when Karen Mattison was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2011.
The New Idea
Karen recognized that the changing U.K. workforce was experiencing a classic market failure: a large supply of skilled, qualified women interested in staying-in (or re-entering) the workforce part-time, and an increasing number of large- and medium-sized employers who could hire a part-time worker, yet the lack of an efficient and effective way for them to find each other. To meet this need, in 2005 Karen created a not-for-profit recruitment and placement organization, Women Like Us, that is helping employers design part-time roles that meet their needs and connecting them to qualified candidates who are seeking part-time postitions. Women Like Us works with employers of all sizes and in all sectors to better define the core needs for employment positions, and, where it makes sense, to be more creative in designing a job to accommodate a part-time employee. She then works across the recruitment spectrum to match qualified employees interested in part-time work, whether it is finding entry-level or low-income jobs that help families rise out of poverty or highly skilled senior roles that promote greater diversity and gender-equality at the top of a company. Karen’s focus is on supporting women to find not just any part-time job, but the right job to match their skills and experience.

Women Like Us is the only recruitment firm in the U.K. to specialize in part-time vacancies. Like a commercial recruitment agency, Women Like Us charges organizations to find suitable candidates for their roles. From attracting high-quality applicants to screening and short-listing, Women Like Us offers a range of services to employers. Employers can also advertise vacancies on Women Like Us’ online jobs board for a flat fee. To date over 1,500 employers have recruited through Women Like Us from companies such as KPMG, Harrods, and Credit Suisse to citizen organizations (COs) such as Save the Children and Breakthrough Breast Cancer.

Unlike a commercial agency, however, Women Like Us also agressively advocates for a workplace that better accomodates family needs, both in helping employers conceptualize how they can hire and retain more part-time employees and through government policy change. This is key to growing the part-time jobs market, as some employers need to understand how providing a flexible, part-time role will make good business sense. Women Like Us also offers counseling and support to employees who are re-entering the workforce and interview practice, IT training, CV clinics, and personal coaching to any woman who is in need of extra guidance. Those who can pay are charged a fee. For those women with low incomes, bursaries are provided so that they can access the service free of charge. Karen founded Women Like Us to give mothers the choice to fit work around the needs of their families without losing their value in the workplace. From her own personal experience of being a working mother who struggled to find a flexible job that matched her skills and experience, Karen saw a gap in the recruitment market that commercial agencies have traditionally failed to address. In addition to helping mothers back into work, Karen believes that a vibrant part-time jobs market will ultimately benefit a whole range of other social groups such as caregivers, the elderly, and part-time students.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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