“Twenty years ago, I don’t think the construction industry was very attractive to women,” shares Rebecca Coffey, Bids & Marketing Director at Duke McCaffrey. “But now, things have changed. Today, construction is very much about creating a better world for future generations - and who wouldn’t want to be part of that?”
As a member of Duke McCaffrey’s leadership team working closely on environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) targets, Rebecca knows firsthand just how exciting and impactful a role in construction can be.
“Technology, innovation and sustainability goals are changing the nature of construction. We take a big-picture approach at our firm. We’re trying to change the way we build things by implementing new and innovative solutions so we can have a positive impact in the future.”
In her day-to-day work, she plays a strategic role in spearheading Duke McCaffrey’s operations, managing bids and tenders, sustainability initiatives, workplace wellbeing and much more.
Construction was not my first choice as a career ,” she says, reflecting on her formidable twenty-year career. “I started in an admin role at an architectural firm. It was very much a male-dominated industry back then, and I wasn’t sure if it would be right for me. But the men I worked with were very fair and treated me equally.”
“I learned quite quickly I needed to find my voice, be professional, loyal and work really hard - and my dedication was rewarded. My senior colleagues mentored me, helping me to learn new skills and improve my technical terminology.”
One such mentor was Kevin Duke, who, years later, approached her with an offer to join his brand new consultancy, which would become the Duke McCaffrey they both work for today.
“I had known Kevin for years when he asked if I’d join Duke McCaffrey. He knew I understood the sector, and we’d built a strong working relationship. Once I joined, I continued to show my commitment and passion for my work, and Kevin and Joe decided to promote me to a company director.”
Holding a leadership role in the construction industry is exceptionally rare among women, but Rebecca is hopeful that things will start to change.
“Having diversity in the boardroom has been incredibly important to the success of our business,” she shares. “If you don’t have different perspectives, you risk creating an echo chamber, and that stifles innovation.”
Of course, she notes that improving female representation in the boardroom first relies on attracting more women to the construction industry broadly.
“As a sector, we definitely have a responsibility to make STEM more appealing to women,” she states. “I think more companies will start to hold themselves accountable for diverse hiring practices, but we also need to look at what’s being done in schools, and the opportunities for upskilling.”
She continues: “I, myself, for example, need to be proactive in using my voice more to show young women that construction is an exciting industry to work in, taking part in networking events and panels. I want to educate young women on what’s possible by working in construction, especially regarding ESG.”
While the construction sector has some way to go before it reaches gender parity, Rebecca is already noticing some positive momentum.
“Even in the last five years, I’ve seen so many more women join the industry. Awards nights are a great symbol of that – it is encouraging & inspiring to see this & other rooms full of dedicated professionals of all genders.
“We’re moving in the right direction,” she concludes. “But we want to accelerate the pace of change, and attract more women into the industry as a priority. After all, a career in construction is an amazing opportunity to make a positive difference. We just need to help young women realise it.”