Hopscotch, a Dubai recruitment company for women, has secured seed stage investment from a digital entrepreneur to expand its services globally.
The homegrown start-up, which launched two years ago, has rebranded as a tech platform, Hopscotch.work, after raising funds from investor Tim Baker, the cofounder of hug digital, a leading Middle East digital agency. Hopscotch.work did not disclose the funding amount.
Helen McGuire, cofounder and managing director of Hopscotch.work, said the new platform allows its talent pool of 50,000 women to apply for jobs directly, build their own profile and network via live video sessions.
“Our original platform was launched as a testing ground for the idea of connecting women to businesses offering flexible work by building a unique talent pool of professionals. Two years ago there was no other company operating in this space and flexible work, particularly for women, wasn’t openly available,” said Ms McGuire.
As the company developed, it added more services, such as career clinics, returnships, open mornings and training sessions, however these were supplied offline, something the new platform will rectify.
"Hopscotch.work is in its first phase and has the objective being of bringing all our services online,” Ms McGuire said.
As the first player in the women’s recruitment space, Hopscotch launched in April 2016 as a subsidiary of the global recruiter and consultancy MCG& Group, which provided the initial funding. At the time, it helped to fill a much-needed gap in the market, connecting women wanting to reenter the workforce after having children with employers willing to offer flexible job options.
Since then, Ms McGuire says the company has placed “thousands” of women in suitable jobs as the demand for flexibility grows. It now also places women in full-time positions.
According to a March poll of 350 women, carried out by Hopscotch.work and Diversitas, a consultancy dedicated to inclusiveness for women, 95 per cent of women would like the option of working flexibly in their next role. Over four fifths of women need flexible working hours to care for family members and a third of those polled said they have ‘never felt supported’ as women by their employers.
This makes Hopscotch.work and its competitors, such as Mums@Work - which also launched in 2016 to match job-seeking mothers with potential employers - more relevant than ever.
Since the launch of the specialist recruiters, companies in the UAE have become more open to recruiting women on a part-time or flexible basis. This is partly due to shifting attitudes, such as global focus on gender diversity and reducing the pay gap between the sexes in the workplace.
“Employment is a key area of focus of governments and corporates across the Mena region and Hopscotch.work’s focus and specialisation on female talent recruitment provides it a differentiating angel to it’s competitors," said Philip Bahoshy, chief executive of the start-up online community platform Magnitt. "The seed stage digital investment will likely provide both intellectual capital transfer as well as cash required to further develop the product and allow Hopscotch to scale into new markets."
Ms McGuire now plans to take the original concept, which was focused on Dubai, to the global stage, expanding initially to Singapore and the wider Asia region before moving on to Europe and the Americas.
“The issue of women’s empowerment, gender balance and the pay gap is not a local problem, it’s not a women’s problem, it’s an issue that affects everyone everywhere," said Ms McGuire. "We would add not billions, but trillions to the global economy if we better mobilised more women in the workforce and quite simply, it doesn’t make any sense to be losing such talent for the sake of some flexibility, thought and support at the right times."
Investor Tim Baker said he wanted to help the company's founders tackle "a serious but obvious need, in supporting women in their job hunt, training and personal development".
“It seemed like a natural fit to support their ambition and help deliver this with a strong digital, global offering in order to reach and connect more women,” he said.