River City Labs to become first startup hub to offer childcare: Why this is important for the ecosystem as a whole

River City Labs new CEO Peta Ellis

It is hard out there for a woman. Modern life has many demands on the working woman, and when you throw in kids she is hardly attracted to the fast and loose startup life.

Changing this can seem out of grasp from most of us. I mean, what can one person do?

Largely, business inherits issues facing marginalised groups from education institutions and society. To date, it is easy to conclude that business has not confronted this challenge with the zest and vigour some would expect.

Take the challenge of childcare.

It’s an issue that plagues parents, particularly mothers. A key inhibitor of women working. If women are working with children they tend to stick to secure jobs.

Among all of this, “family friendly” policies are relatively new. This is despite parenting hardly being a new concept.

For the startup sector, it is hardly viewed as the ideal employer.

While startups are more likely to allow flexible working, but that only solves half the issue. With childcare within our cities averaging $200 per child per day and rarely easily accessible, this is a complex issue.

But this can change.

If startups are going to try and tap into the female talent pool what we need is more co-working spaces with childcare facilities. Minimising the impediments to women founding, working and leading startups starts with considering the barriers.

That is what Brisbane-based River City Labs has done. They follow other efforts like Perth’s Bubdesk, which is a decked out co-working space with a creche.

River City labs has put out a tender for an onsite childcare facility, in part to help boost female membership which currently sits at 10%.

While child rearing isn’t only the domain of women, of the primary parents in Australia only 8% are men. We all know that startups operate on a hard and fast existence with most of us using all of the hours in the day to think about our businesses.

Normalising the use of childcare at co-working spaces serves two purposes. It will attract and retain more women into the sector and more entrepreneurial men will recognise and participate in the role as fathers and parents.

By dedicating real resources and harnessing capacity that allows us to achieve the benefits of diversity. Doing something substantive reduces the chance that we will continue to talk and do nothing on the issue.

Experiences and standards like this can change the game. This is what gives us leverage.

If more of the industry acted radically like this then startups could corner the female labour market. Need I remind founders and managers that women are the majority of university graduates and women working flexibly are the more efficient workers at our disposal.

Corporate Australia has long been told to make childcare more accessible affordable for female staff to entice them. Their lag can be our opportunity.

Making allowances for childcare is the start of this.

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Conrad Liveris is a workforce diversity specialist.