Rebecca Hanley

Managing Director | Laing O’Rourke – Australian operations

  • Culture champion
  • Driving reform
  • Innovator
Based in: NSW
Modes: Road Rail Aviation
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“Cognitive diversity gives you better results, better responses, better decision making and more holistic leadership styles.”

Current positions

  • Managing Director, Laing O’Rourke – Australian operations
  • Group Director for Strategy and Transformation, Laing O’Rourke

Previous positions

  • Director and Founder, Jamais. Ltd
  • Strategy Manager, Anglo American
  • Senior Manager, Corporate Strategy, PricewaterhouseCoopers UK
  • Finance Director, INSEAD Alumni Association (UK) Ltd

Career snapshot

Rebecca Hanley has served on Laing O’Rourke’s Group Executive Committee since June 2018 as Group Director for Strategy and Transformation, where she has been instrumental in shaping the Group’s Deliver 2025 global strategy focused on innovation and excellence.

Within the Laing O’Rourke Group, Rebecca also has executive accountability for the Technologies and Innovation Group where she has been reinvigorating the company’s portfolio and commercialisation strategy. She has also been deeply engaged in shaping the company’s Executive Development Program – bringing the science of excellence and performance into the organisation’s operations as well as the company’s advanced manufacturing strategy, data transformation and financial turnaround initiatives.

Prior to joining Laing O’Rourke, Rebecca provided support to private equity- backed and independent start-ups looking for help in professionalising operations to support ambitious growth plans pre- or post- first round funding. Before this, she worked in strategy for Anglo American plc and as a strategy advisor in PricewaterhouseCoopers in both the UK and Australia.

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In her own words

The starting point for women in transport these days is in a very different place today to where it has been, thanks to the trailblazing women and men before us.

I am thrilled that we are at a position now where people recognise that cognitive diversity gives you better results, better responses, better decision making and more holistic leadership styles. In the last three years (and maybe COVID pressures helped), people have let go of the architype of what a transport professional is meant to look like.

We need more STEM projects and programs to attract more women into the technical fields at school and at university, and to look at job design more broadly. We must also think more innovatively about the types of roles that could be brought in from other industries to enhance how we work.

Importantly this goes beyond recruitment. We need to focus on culture, and the experience women have once they’re in the industry; that they feel valued and able to succeed like all others in the workforce.

Leading loud

When I was appointed Managing Director, I was very open about the fact that I was promoted whilst on parental leave. I deliberately did this because I wanted everyone to see that our commitment to diversity and increasing the representation of women in senior roles is much more than rhetoric.

Gone are the days when a woman can’t apply for a promotion or a job because she is pregnant or has a young family. We want the best people in our business, and I hope my experience demonstrates just how serious we are about our commitment to being an employer of choice for both men and women.

Since the announcement I have had an inordinate number of young women in our business come up to me and say ‘I didn’t think I had a long-term career path in this industry or this business’. They couldn’t see enough senior women demonstrating to them different pathways to senior leadership. My appointment signalled you can do it in a way that isn’t the traditional model we have always seen. I am not an engineer, but I am leading an engineering and construction company. I think previously some women were self-selecting out of the equation without their leaders even knowing that they held these limiting beliefs around their career possibilities. It has been fascinating – and important - to see that come to the surface and something I will focus on throughout my tenure as Managing Director.

Whilst I did not start my career in construction, I have come from oil and gas, mining, and heavy industries so I bring that experience in decision making in long dated, very capital-intensive industries and the appreciation of the importance of risk management and technical expertise. More diversity of experiences could benefit the transport industry because that is where you can get greater innovation and productivity. You learn from the lessons of others rather than believing the best of thinking solely exists in your sector. I am a big advocate of cross industry pollination.

The tenacity tenet

When I was young, my father gave me an analogy of flies in a soup bowl all swimming hard to try and stay at the top. Over time even some of the stronger flies dropped to the bottom because they gave up. Those with the grit, determination, and perseverance were able to stay swimming and eventually succeeded and got out. That advice has stayed with me all my career. Perseverance and determination will trump capability every step of the way. Don’t ever doubt whether you have the capability to achieve anything. Trust that if you have the right work ethic and perseverance you can achieve any change.

This belief means when you take on a new role you move from ‘can I do this?’ to ‘how can I make this successful?’ and you start problem solving a lot quicker. It’s a tenet I hold dear because it shifts your perspective.

My vision for the next 5 years is...

…the transport industry is ambitious around diversity and inclusion, and I want to lead a business that challenges the definitions and models of what type of background and experience people need to succeed in our industry. I want us to learn from other industries about how we can deliver our projects with more certainty for our clients, whilst at the same time provide our people with a work environment that is focussed on their wellbeing and a culture where everyone is included no matter what role they play.

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