Hansen puts first woman on its board

The first woman to sit on the board of construction company Hansen Yuncken says its century of history doesn't weigh on her shoulders - even if she is a fourth-generation Hansen.

The first woman to sit on the board of construction company Hansen Yuncken says its century of history doesn't weigh on her shoulders - even if she is a fourth-generation Hansen.

But there's one tradition Louise Hansen is determined to maintain: the company will remain in private hands.

Asked if Hansen Yuncken, which is profitable and last year booked $1 billion in revenue, is thinking about joining the rush of companies floating on the stock exchange, Ms Hansen gave a simple answer: "No."

She said staying private kept the company "nimble and light-footed" and financial accounts filed with the corporate regulator show its balance sheet is robust.

In the 2013 financial year Hansen Yuncken turned a profit of $11 million, up from $4.6 million the previous year. It had cash in the bank of $273 million and no bank debt.

On Wednesday, Ms Hansen joins the board as an executive director, alongside her brother Richard and father Peter.

The other directors are chief executive Joe Barr, former ASX director Clive Batrouney, architect Tim Shannon and two members of the Beslich family, Ron Beslich and chairman David Beslich.

Ms Hansen will retain her role as Victorian business development manager.

While she has been in the business for 18 years and has acted as Peter Hansen's alternate since 2006, she admits that if she hadn't been born into the construction industry it would "not necessarily" have been where she ended up. "It's not a top choice, often, for girls when they leave school," she said.

"They probably get diverted by family life - and it's not necessarily always an easy industry, so they might head off into consulting roles.

"We do our best to encourage [women]. We've got some great young girls at the moment and we're always looking for opportunities to employ more."

Founded in 1918 by Otto Yuncken and Lauritz Hansen, the group has worked on some of Australia's biggest - and most unusual - projects.

In the late 1920s, it invented special suspended scaffolding so that plasterwork could be done on the leaky interior of the State Library of Victoria dome.

It built the rocket launchers used at the Woomera range in the 1950s and, as part of a joint venture with Hornibrook, was responsible for South Australia's Myponga Dam.

More recently, Hansen Yuncken built Melbourne's Council House 2 and $750 million worth of projects under the previous Labor government's controversial Building the Education Revolution program, including work on 203 schools in south-west Sydney.

It also built Hobart's Museum of Old and New Art, an achievement Ms Hansen says makes the company "enormously proud".

While the Yuncken family quit the business in the 1960s, replaced by the Beslich family, the company has proved itself a survivor in the notoriously treacherous construction industry.

"We're reasonably conservative," Ms Hansen said. "We don't take unnecessary risk. We stay out of the development space."

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