Champions for Action

David Hawkes

David Hawkes, Head of Tax in Adelaide at Grant Thornton, believes that the promotion and genuine support of diversity is a role for everyone — both men and women.

While real change is happening now, a focus on equity, and not just equality, is where we will begin to see real movement towards an even playing field.

“I was at a space industry panel discussion in Adelaide recently where there was a four-person panel of aeronautic engineers, space engineers and industry leaders, who were all females.

“I took a photo of it for my 10-year-old daughter, who is passionate about engineering and space, because I thought she would be excited that it was four women leading the discussion. I showed it to her and asked what she noticed about the photo. She couldn’t see or pick that it was an all-female panel.

“So I found it interesting that the mindset is shifting — a 10-year-old girl didn’t actually see anything special about four female leaders. To her, that’s just normal. It is great that the shift is happening but we can’t wait 15 to 20 years for those girls to become leaders for it to solidify. It needs to happen now,” he said.

To David, diversity drives huge benefits for everyone — businesses, clients and individuals.

“I like to be challenged. In the absence of diversity, we can become fairly linear in our thought process and maintain the status quo. So I think having people from all walks of life — from gender and sexuality, to ethnicity — opens up different perspectives and insights and perhaps changes the course that you would have otherwise taken.

“I think that the focus needs to be on equity rather than just equality. Furthering diversity in the workplace drives huge benefits for our business and our clients. To achieve that doesn’t mean that we treat everyone equally, it means we may need to treat them differently, at different times, to ensure equality.

David Hawkes, Partner - Grant Thornton Australia

“Equally important: diversity is not a threat to men, a sentiment you sometimes hear. The further we support diversity then the greater opportunities there will also be for men to achieve success. It is not about beating up men. It’s about elevating women,” he said.

David believes that open, honest conversation will help to continue to drive diversity and shift behaviours.

“The conversation around this is critical as well as modelling behaviour. A friend of mine in the UK is a member of HeForShe and wears a pin to show his support.

“He told me it has given him the visual license to speak up in meetings and ask ‘what does that mean’ from a gender perspective. He has formally committed to calling out behaviour that undermines diversity.

“It’s positive action that really resonated with me. Even though I don’t wear a pin — and you certainly don’t have to — I try to champion and support opportunities for all team members. It’s about encouraging other people to adopt more supportive behaviour and seeing it in action is important,” he said.

An important way of enabling diversity is flexible working, which, for David personally, required a mental shift.

“I work flexible hours to juggle my various family commitments. It took me a while to not feel guilty, but I feel real acceptance and support at all levels. Moreover, I hope that flexibility of this kind enables more female professionals to pursue both their career and personal goals.

“I think flexible work is really about juggling all aspects of your life, not just family commitments. Pursuing that balance allows other people to see what’s possible,” he said.

So, how do we maintain momentum? David sees men as a critical component to the success of diversity.

“I think momentum needs to be driven by everyone, including supportive, articulate male leaders that demonstrate the importance of equity and diversity. If we make sure the conversation is part of everyday life and a part of how we work, then we open the door to female team members and those with leadership aspirations to pursue it.”

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