How a life-changing diagnosis led Kim Keating to re-evaluate her job – and start donating to the Leading Women Fund
When Kim Keating was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago, she found herself leaning heavily on her friends. This was unusual: she is, by her own admission, a fixer and a doer, the type of friend who organises a night out, and checks everyone has arrived home safely afterwards.
But with her husband, Chris, working fulltime, and three children at home, “I learned not to say no when someone offered to drop round a casserole,” she says. “It really does take a village.”
So when Kim, 51, participated in the Leading Women Fund’s Connecting Worlds app last year, she was particularly affected by the loneliness expressed by the Syrian refugee woman, Hala, she’d matched with.
“When she’d fled Syria, Hala had left her community behind and she’d lost that support,” says Kim. “Her mother and sister still lived close by but they were also dependent on her. Hala described being so lonely, but knew she had to focus on her children, and surviving.”
The opportunity to text directly with a refugee woman was one of the key reasons for Kim, who owns a recruitment business, to donate to the Fund. That, and the desire to learn more about the reasons for women like Hala to flee their homes, and the complexity of their subsequent situation.
“I felt like I made glib comments about refugees and how terrible it all was, and how we should do more, but I didn’t really know that much about it,” she says. “So for me this was a really unique opportunity to learn more, and connecting directly with Hala, was such a meaningful way to do this.”
One of the Founding 50 members of the Leading Women Fund, Kim was going through a period of significant change when she decided to donate. Not only was she receiving treatment for cancer, but she’d also decided to leave her job to start her own recruitment business, Purpose and People, which works with clients in the not-for-profit, disability and aged-care sector.
“Having had breast cancer, I knew I couldn’t go back to that corporate, 60 to 70-hour working week, being away from my family,” she says. “During my time off, I’d adjusted to earning less and I also wanted to work differently. I wanted to do something with more heart.”
Working for herself means that Managing Director Kim and her “invaluable” Associate Director Phillipa deliver an executive-level recruitment process for organisations that otherwise wouldn’t be able to access her skills. They’re also developing another business, the LadyBoss Toolkit, which will provide online, downloadable recruitment guidance for female-led small businesses – everything, says Kim, from a phone screen to an interview, to a reference check.
“There’s a lot of information available, but it’s very corporate and doesn’t suit how women deal with each other,” says Kim. “Often they’ll employ a friend over coffee, which is obviously fine, but we want to put some rigour around that.”
Talking to Kim, you realise that this friendly, softly-spoken woman has a certain steeliness.
The past few years have had many difficult moments; most recently, her daughter, Katie, contracted a chronic pain syndrome, which has meant she has spent three of the last four months in hospital.
But Kim remains upbeat and refreshingly honest about how these challenges have changed her. “I’m not in as much of a hurry as I used to be,” she confesses. “I’ve had to let go of the idea of working at my previous level, too, and become comfortable with the idea that I can’t operate at 100 per cent all the time. I also love time alone in a way that I didn’t before.”
The Leading Women Fund, she says, came at a time when she was “a bit over myself”, and looking for a way to support other women who’d been through a difficult event.
“You don’t have to be in a position where everything’s perfect in order to give back,” she says. “You can just start.”
Craftivists Stephanie Dunlap and Tal Fitzpatrick reached out to artists around the world to raise funds for Australia for UNHCR
The majority of funds raised by Australia for UNHCR are directed to UNHCR’s emergency operations, providing the ready funds and resources to respond quickly and effectively in situations of crisis and disaster.