This is a summary of an interview between Dr Nyari Murefu and Phillipa Geard, which was recorded live at the Ziwani launch on 24 June 2021. You can watch the full video here or listen to the podcast here.
NM: We are now going to talk to Phillipa Geard, who is passionate about redeeming employment practices, especially for women. She is the Founder and CEO of RecruitMyMom, which is an award-winning, women-focused recruitment agency that understands the need for work-life integration and flexibility. Phillipa, could you please tell us a bit about yourself? Where did it all start?
PG: My passion for women can probably be explained by the fact that I grew up very privileged, in a bit of a golden era in South Africa. I saw hope through a transition in our country that did not result in civil war, and I was also the first person in my family to go to university. So I never really saw barriers around me. But as I became more involved in business, in church, and in society, I became aware of barriers around women. There were these patriarchal systems that I did not understand, because I had grown up thinking that everything was possible.
I remember one evening when I was working overseas for Procter & Gamble – we were at dinner and I was asked, “If you could be anything, what would you be?” At the time I was working as a marketer, but I answered that I would be a motivational speaker for women. It just shows that God actually listens to all our words, and I think God began to stir something in my heart for women, and for women empowerment.
NM: Could you please tell us more about why you established RecruitMyMom and RecruitAGraduate?
PG: RecruitMyMom was birthed at a time when I was between work, I had spent a lot of time in prayer, and felt that God had given me the idea of helping women. It was actually sparked in a moment in a parking lot, at my children’s school. I was talking to a woman who had previously worked internationally, who was then raising her children. She said to me, “I wish I could find work that was more flexible, but the recruitment agencies just will not take me seriously.” When I heard about her work experience and the skills she had, I was deeply moved. As a consultant, I knew that businesses in our country were in desperate need of great skills, and yet the recruitment agencies at the time were not taking mothers who wanted to work seriously. I wanted to help these women, and help our nation access these incredible skills.
Then in 2019 I was listening to a speech by President Cyril Ramaphosa about the plight of the youth, and my heart was again deeply moved. As a business owner, I have a deep concern that in future we may not have the skills we need for our businesses to flourish, and I wanted to be part of the solution. So that is how these two agencies came about.
NM: You are a “solutionary”, an award-winning entrepreneur, a mother, a Christ-follower – how have these overlaps shaped your calling?
PG: Well, I am a mom, an entrepreneur, a wife, sister, daughter, member of a church – and we often see ourselves in these silos. But I believe that God sees us as multi-faceted diamonds – and only when we embrace all the facets of the diamond that God has created us to be, do we truly reflect who He is in us. I am all those people, but at the end of the day I am one, because that is how God created me.
NM: That is so beautiful. I love your analogy of a diamond and its different facets. One of the biggest challenges I have always had, and a question I always ask women like you is, “How do you manage to do it all?
PG: First of all, I have a very supportive husband. I think everyone in my position needs a supportive husband! But there are no easy answers. I vividly remember a talk I attended once, by a woman who started a very successful spa organisation in New York. She said, “The bottom line is, women cannot have it all, something has to give.” When I started my businesses, I said to the Lord, “If these businesses come between me and the family, I will give up the businesses.”
So I have always tried to prioritise the important things, which for me have been, my walk with God, my marriage and children, the family, and then the work fits around that. I am not sure they would agree with that order, but I certainly do try and prioritise my family’s needs. It is also about employing the right people, who can do the work you do not have to do. I have had to let a lot go, so that I can let others come in and help me, which has been really good.
NM: And in all these roles that you play, what has been your biggest challenge?
PG: From a personal point of view, being a woman, an entrepreneur, a Christian, and a mother, has sometimes been a very lonely road. I am grateful that God has brought other Christian businesswomen and men across my path who have supported me in this journey. So one of my challenges has been finding like-minded people, who understand me, and understand my purpose and calling.
From a spiritual point of view, I am constantly challenged by Psalm 127:1 that says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain.” My worst nightmare would be to stand before the Lord one day, and not hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21). Sometimes self-doubt can creep in, but I go back to that moment in prayer where I really felt that God had given me a mandate to go and empower others. Did you know that 40% of women in South Africa are single moms, and that 60% of children in this country grow up without fathers? So you can just imagine the economic burden women carry, and to be a part of that, and to hear amazing stories about what RecruitMyMom is doing, is incredible. But at the end of the day I need to know that God’s hand is in it.
NM: It is amazing that you can redeem the Father heart of God in our society through giving the dignity of work. You started in 2012 – what changes have you seen in your industry since then?
PG: There certainly have been many changes. In 2012 there were no real online recruitment platforms, and now there are so many. Remote working was almost unheard of. We were doing a massive education job in the country around flexible and remote working. Of course we also do in-office placements, but we were trying to get employers to think of alternative ways of retaining women in the workplace, and attracting women back into the workplace, by allowing them a little bit more work-life integration. So we have seen a big shift in employer thinking around remote working, and the COVID pandemic, for all its devastation and havoc, did an instant education job with employers. We have therefore moved away from playing an educating role towards playing more of a facilitating role, helping employers to better transition into this new way of working.
On the youth and graduate side, we have a long way to go in our country. It is good to see so many people trying to make a difference for our youth, but we have a long way to go. Overall, in terms of women economic empowerment, and changes in the way people work, however, we have seen a significant shift. I mean, we have 110,000 women on our database, which just shows you how many women there are out there, who want to participate in our economy.
NM: That is incredible. From one woman to another, thank you for being an example – for showing us that actually, we can do it. If God can do it through you, He can do it through me, so thank you.
PG: I think God places us where we need to shine, so you will shine wherever you need to shine.