Growing up, Hexagon’s Louise Daw, never had to look far for a mentor. Her grandmother, June Craig, spent the better part of a century committed to public service and humanitarian issues. Her interest in migrant welfare led to the establishment of a Citizens’ Advice Bureau in regional Western Australia. She was only the second woman in Western Australia to serve as a government minister during nine years in Parliament. For almost a decade, media described June Craig as the most powerful woman in the state. In 1994, Craig was recognized with an Order of Australia.
Daw is a former Western Australia Entrepreneur of the Year and co-founded a successful mining technology company before joining Hexagon in 2017. She’s now Innovation and Strategy Advisor for Hexagon’s Mining division.
In a podcast interview, both women discuss their achievements, the adversity encountered enroute, and what it takes to champion diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Listen to the full interview.
Q: Louise, tell us about your career in mining and technology and June’s influence along the way.
LD: It’s difficult to live in Western Australia and not get involved in mining because it is such a dominant industry here. I had great aspirations to become an accountant at university and it was only doing one of the courses that we had to do in order to graduate was a computer programing course and it infuriated me, it challenged me, and at the end of the semester, I got top marks for it and I realized that I love being challenged, and so I changed my degree so that I could work in the technology space.
So, taking that background with a technology degree from Curtin University, I worked through different businesses, lots of startups in Western Australia, until starting my own with my husband, Rob Daw, (CIO, Hexagon’s Mining division) and we went about trying to digitize parts of the mining industry that had previously been overlooked or just considered too difficult to digitize.
My gran’s obviously been a role model my whole life, instilling that your skills and capability are what define who you are and not your gender.
Q: June, Louise tells me that your life motto is dedicated to humanity. What set you on that path?
JC: In life, there are coincidences. And it just happened that I went to Perth to have my three children with me for a couple of years instead of their being at boarding school. While I was in Perth, I could do a course with Good Neighbor Council that related to migrants. By chance, I could then go back and have the opportunity to establish a Good Neighbor Council come Citizens Advice Bureau. I operated from a room that was about as big as a cupboard. I had it furnished from what was in my basement. And I had $300, and that was all.
It was the people I met through that, the people I would never have met otherwise as a farmer’s wife. I had an ability to equate to those people, and I knew that when it came to an election, if I could possibly be a candidate that was accepted that I could get the numbers.
And so that was when I started door-knocking for nearly three months, which I have to tell you was not an easy occupation.
LD: People asked you why your husband wasn’t being fed dinner!
JC: “And what happened to your husband?” they would say when I knocked on doors. I’d say, “He’s all looked after.” “And where are your children? Well, they’ve all grown up.” Being elected as the only woman in the West Australian parliament – it was extraordinary for me to be able to be the endorsed candidate because I did have to stand against 11 men. That was my first opportunity to say, “Here, I’m going to have the opportunity to show you I can do it as well. But beware, I believe I could do it better.”
A lot of people thought I was mad, but it didn’t matter. And I managed to survive there for nine years.
Q: Louise, it’s no secret that women are poorly represented among science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, otherwise known as STEM, either as graduates or in the workplace. What are some of the ways you think that more women can be attracted to STEM careers?
LD: In mining and in STEM based-subjects in particular, it’s about working with foundations that focus on promoting women in technology, getting different aged women from different STEM careers into the schools, talking to them, mentoring them, showcasing them. Gran is still quite actively involved with one of the schools here. And she was just telling me about how they do massive STEM programs for the girls’ schools from Year 5 onwards. So, it’s just about making it more accessible and following the slogan of WITWA (Women in Technology Western Australia). They say: “If you can see her, you can be her”.
Q: What do you think companies like Hexagon can be doing towards diversity and inclusivity?
LD: I think Hexagon is doing a great job because they’re engaged regionally. We have foundations that do promote STEM and females in STEM-based roles. So, I think that we continue to support and help those regional communities and foundations that are trying to get to that roots level – showcase the amazing technology that we develop and let them know that these careers are entirely possible for anyone.
The message really is that yes, you can do what you want, but you can’t do everything. So, what is important to you? If you’re wanting to excel in your career, then yes, you’re going to have to make sacrifices in your family at that time. But then if your family is the biggest focus for you, then make career sacrifices and then return to your career once the children are grown. Gran proved that model. Her children were all grown up before her career began.
Q: Both of you in your careers are familiar with being the only female in the room. What helps or what helped you to be successful in male-dominated professions.
LD: I just was so passionate about what I was doing … It just did not occur to me because that’s not what I was there for. It’s the skills, the people that I could learn from, the mentors, it was my education and my experience. I think you’re at a disadvantage if you’re considering your gender in a career. You’ve got to think about what you enjoy about that career, what experience you want to gain from it, what skills you can bring to the table and what achievements you want from that career.
JC: If you’re a female working with men, all men, you really need to make quite sure that you have done your homework well and that you can, well, not only stand up against them, but I think be better than them. And that’s what I strove to do.
Q: You’ve set goals personally and professionally. What has been the key to achieving those goals?
JC: I did so many different things … I suppose at whatever stage of life you were, the only thing you could do was do it as well as you could, but with your own stamp, not necessarily following through your predecessor.
LD: I think that that’s another great influence of Gran’s is that once you set your mind to doing something, do it well. Oversee the adversity and the challenges to do it well.