Business Strength in Adversity Thriving Under Pressure


Hawk adds a touch of feminine leadership in a ‘man’s world’ and in a difficult time

18 August 2020: In the largely male-dominated world of high-pressure pumps, cleaners and accessories, Melanie Mokawem, Director at Hawk, is flouting expectations and taking the lead this Women’s Month. She shared some insight on what it means to take charge in this high-pressure role.

“I’ve learned to tune out the noise and get on with it,” says Melanie on being a woman in a sector dominated by men. She continues, “I work hard, and I do a good job. Of course, I have had the odd issue with a few men who feel that women have no place being in business – especially in a leadership role – but that’s going to happen in any sector.

“I once had a very funny conversation over the phone with someone asking me if they could speak to the manager. I answered, ‘Speaking’. ‘No,’ she insisted, ‘The owner, then’. I replied, ‘Still me’. ‘But you’re not a man,’ she said. I tried really hard not to laugh. The best advice I can give women in leadership roles is, just do YOU; do it well and be consistent. Your work and your work ethic will do all the talking for you”.

On adapting to the pandemic, Melanie says, “Our cleaning and spraying products, by nature, are suited to fighting COVID-19. With a little imagination and a lot of gumption, we have adapted our core in-stock product range to come up with innovative solutions, while other companies were struggling to import products during lock-down.

“For example, we have converted our electric Sporty Field Markers into spraying sanitising units. You have to be prepared to adapt quickly to new circumstances in any industry. The world changes. COVID is just a very extreme case.”

“For me, every working day centres around responsibility to family – not just my own family but my staff and theirs. That is something I take very seriously. At the end of the month I know that I have 54 families to account for and that’s a big responsibility. This is why adapting is so important. I have to stay on top of the changes our market is going through to keep the business thriving for everyone involved.

“I’ve also had to adapt and change my role as needed by the company. I love to learn, and I’ve discovered late in life that I’m a super-nerd. So, if we had a skill shortage or we couldn’t find as suitable service provider, I’d upskill myself and just do what was needed. And I believe that, no matter what you do, learning should never stop.

On balance, Melanie adds, “Everybody needs a solid support system. Work-family balance is a two-person job. That is where I’m very fortunate. I have an equal partner in my husband. We are equal at work and at home. Our roles overlap and there are no gender-specific expectations on either of us. Between us, we have found a harmony that works for the company and for our family. I honestly couldn’t do this job without him and our boys”.

As business at Hawk continues to grow during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, Melanie is an inspiring figure for a month that celebrates feminine power and achievement in the face of adversity. Rules were meant to be broken. And as Melanie says “Katherine Hepburn famously said, ‘If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun’.”