I’m a very privileged individual,” says David Cooke. “I’m a white, well-paid Anglo Saxon male living in Australia, so I don’t know discrimination. I’ve never felt it on grounds of the colour of my skin, or my sexual preference, or my gender. But when I see discrimination, I really feel it. It bothers me; it hurts me… It’s not like I set out on a campaign to reform the business world or anything like that, but as I’ve moved into senior roles, it just seemed obvious to me that if you have influence, you should use that influence for good.”
David is the managing director for Konica Minolta’s Australian-based operations, and when he arrived not a single woman held a senior management role. He immediately promoted women to directorships in key strategic positions, but that was just the beginning…
How did gender equality become a focus for you?
I’m the first non-Japanese managing director in 35 years in the company. Women had not been able to achieve senior management roles within the organisation previously… Culture takes a long time to change, and that’s largely the way things have been in Japan for centuries. It’s changing now, but I didn’t see any reason not to change things a lot more quickly here.
How can an organisation champion gender equality?
Make sure that there is no inadvertent discrimination against women developing their capacity to move into these very senior management ranks. If a woman is out of the workforce for a period of time on maternity leave, or needs to work more flexible hours around possibly being the primary carer of younger children, then that shouldn’t disadvantage her.
How ar eyou ensuring gender equality at Konika Minolta?
Every manager who may have an influence over somebody’s career completely understands that the culture of our organisation is one of non-discrimination and one of also of keeping women on our radar. What’s happening more and more is that people, upon selecting a candidate for a promotion, [are] just stopping and checking themselves and saying, “Right, has any unconscious bias crept in here?”
What changes have you seen with women in senior management?
Let me make a shocking statement here: women are different to men… The women will tend to bring a greater level of thoughtfulness, perceptiveness and sensitivity to a situation… The male is likely to take a shortcut and say, “I believe this is right, it’s black and white… let’s just go and do it.” And a woman is more likely, even if she agrees with that decision, to say, “Is there a way we can implement this that will ensure we have buy-in from the individual affected rather than just having a management decision inflicted upon them?” You start to get more balanced decision-making.