CEO and Founder of Cityparents
Cityparents Ltd is an award-winning organization supporting working parents and professionals in corporate roles who want to balance their work and home lives. Founded in 2012 by Louisa Symington-Mills following her successful career in banking and finance, Cityparents provides expert-led resources, information, and advice to individuals and businesses across a range of topics, including career progression, work/life balance, home/family life, and parenting, wellbeing at work, inclusion, and creating flexible and inclusive workplaces.
Louisa is still comparatively early into her working career. Having founded Cityparents in her spare time, she ran the organization alongside a regular day job for several years before taking the helm as full-time CEO in 2017. In addition to her role as CEO, Louisa now holds an Independent Non-Executive Director position at an LSE-listed private equity company.
Louisa is a phenomenal networker and persistent and persuasive in inviting leading City names to support Cityparents. Under her inspiring leadership, membership has increased rapidly since its launch. Cityparents now supports nearly 30,000 working parents across a broad range of corporate professions.
Louisa is an empathetic manager who has fostered a culture of trust and collaboration across the small team at Cityparents.
As every member of the team works fully flexibly and remotely, this is an essential ingredient in the success of the overall business.
As a leader, Louisa responds astutely and quickly to changing business needs and is always open to trying new initiatives, with an intuitive understanding of when – and when not – to sustain these over the long term.
She instinctively understands the needs of the working parents. For example, knowing that the pandemic was placing huge time pressure on working parents, Louisa created a new range of Shorts – short-form video content – to enable members with limited time to continue to access Cityparents’ expertise. These have been and continue to be extremely popular. Louisa and her small team continually and proactively refine the business offering to ensure it always remains relevant; as a result, Cityparents continues to grow and thrive despite the challenging backdrop of the past 18 months.
Cityparents ‘punches above its weight’; it has gained high profile and credibility in a very short space of time.’ It has also provided a strategic drive for many organizations’ HR policies and gender agendas.
As a specialist in work/life issues, Cityparents is a vital source of support for its members as they go through the most challenging periods in their careers. By meeting other working parents experiencing the same challenges, members are encouraged to believe it is possible to have fulfilling home and work lives.
Crucially, Cityparents practices what it preaches; every member of the team works remotely and part-time, with working patterns based around the school term. Louisa has grown her small team based on two fundamental principles – hiring people that she believes are brilliant, enthusiastic, passionate; and trusting them to get on and deliver a great job, knowing they are committed to the objectives of the business and they will happily devote their skills and experience to its growth and development.
As Louisa says, “We pay as much as we can, but our real currency is enabling colleagues to work whatever hours fit into their busy family lives. We are all parents of young children and want to enjoy a right to be present at school drop-off and pick-up, for school holidays, for sports days, doctor’s appointments or when a child is ill, without needing to seek permission from ‘the boss’ for special leave or extra flexibility. We all work – myself included – predominantly during school term hours, and largely from home, with occasional trips into London when required. I trust my team inherently to manage themselves how their work and life arrangements blend together, and to draw appropriate boundaries too. As a result of our flexible and ‘real life’ approach, I’ve been able to grow a team of dedicated, skilled and valued colleagues. We aim to be a role model for small businesses, demonstrating how offering a flexible work approach can be of huge benefit to attracting and retaining talent”.
“As a female leader running an all-female team, the qualities and skills we all bring to the table of empathy, support, trust, and collaboration are all precious and are interwoven through our day-to-day activities. Women are sometimes told they are too kind, or caring, or ‘soft’ to be leaders, but I believe real leadership requires an emotional connection,” she explains.
“The only time I felt my career wobble was when I returned to my corporate job, working in finance in the City of London, after my first period of maternity leave in 2012. I had a flexible working arrangement in place but didn’t know how to make it work successfully in practice, and I found it hard to combine the competing demands of office and family life. I didn’t know any other working mothers in the same boat as me – who were trying to keep a tough City career moving forwards while managing some work-life balance too. This provided the spark for what became Cityparents, so I never regret that career ‘wobble,’ as, without it, Cityparents wouldn’t be here today.”
As winner of the GBEA social enterprise Entrepreneur of the Year award 2015, Louisa has developed a leading and inspirational profile as an entrepreneur. Her advice to anyone considering starting a new business? “Get your goals straight – if you know where you’re going, the path to get there will be a lot easier to find. Look for what’s missing – I launched Cityparents because I was responding to both my own needs and those of the people around me, and I couldn’t find any other product or offering that delivered what I was looking for. If you spot a niche or a need, go for it. Be confident – 10 years ago if you’d told me I would be running an award-winning and successful business, I would have laughed – I never saw myself as an entrepreneur. But as time has gone on I’ve learnt to embrace the skills I have and use them consciously to get the most out of everything I do, every day.”
Louisa champions the interests and concerns of working City parents by speaking at industry events and writing regular articles for The Telegraph newspaper. She has also spoken on TV and radio and is sought out for advice by both City firms and policy-making bodies looking to support better their employees who are parents.