Welcome to our Stella Women series celebrating the game-changing women who aren’t afraid to shatter glass ceilings and drive change for other women. We’re proud to partner with Stella Insurance to amplify the voices of these formidable females. First up? Liz Dawes, CEO and Founder of the Robert Connor Dawes Foundation.
Liz Dawes is the epitome of resilience and poise. As the CEO and Founder of the Robert Connor Dawes Foundation – a charity created in memory of her son Connor Dawes, who passed away from paediatric brain cancer at the young age of 18 in 2013 – Dawes often says, “I love what I do, but I hate why I am doing it.”
In the wake of tragedy, Dawes has created real change for other young people, like her son Connor, who are faced with a diagnosis of paediatric brain cancer. Through her efforts, the RCD Foundation has raised over $8 million dollars for research, care and development in the paediatric brain cancer space since its inception only months after Connor passed away.
Running a multi-million dollar charity is no easy feat – it requires business sense in spades. Dawes is a passionate advocate for women in business, believing that “women need to harness their voice and not be afraid to use it to stand up for themselves and other women,” just as as Stella does.
In this interview with The Australian Women’s Weekly, Dawes opens up about why she created the RCD Foundation, her hopes for the next generation and why businesses that champion women are so important.
Why is it so important for women like you to share your story?
We are all looking for inspiration. If my story of how I am coping through the absolute tragedy of my son Connor’s death can inspire others, that is great. I am surviving and honouring his memory through the RCD Foundation. It is not always easy, but I am trying to live a good, positive life.
Who has been your greatest inspiration both personally and professionally?
Personally, I would have to say my Mum. She was so strong, had great advice and was so supportive of me as a woman. My greatest inspiration professionally is definitely Sara Blakely, the creator of Spanx. Sara has great energy – I try and bring this energy to any room I enter too.
What should schools be teaching the next generation?
I love creativity. I think schools should be getting people to look at things through a lens that isn’t black and white, allowing for creative group and individual think. I think education needs to be broader and accepting of new ideas in this way.
Also, we have one planet – it is important to consider how we live here on this earth, and how we broaden our perspective in terms of different cultures and different people, as well as finding ways we can try not to separate people but to bring them together.
What is your sliding door moment?
Moving to Australia. My husband Scott and I are both from the US and had our three children there. If we had stayed in the US our children would have grown up there, and there would be no Connor’s Run in Australia. I feel we have been able to make a bigger impact here in Australia than we would have had starting a charity in the US. All in all, our life would have been completely different. We were only going to move for a year or two and here we are twenty years later.
What’s the best advice you can give to women who want to help with a cause or charity but don’t know how?
I recommend investigating that particular charity that you believe in and find out about their events; they might have ways for you to volunteer. If you put your hand up and show you’re interested, the charity will notice and be grateful for your help. Another great way to support a charity is by spreading awareness through your social media channels. There is a strong partnership between advocacy and fundraising and both are welcomed and important.
Why do you think businesses such as Stella are so important?
Stella and businesses like it are crucial for giving women the knowledge that there are opportunities for them, that female business owners and CEOs aren’t alone in their quest to run their own business. There is support out there, and tips, support and advice from other women is important.
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