Cecily McGuckin was no stranger to the family business, Queensland Steel and Sheet (QSS), when she joined. As such, she was well aware that the task ahead of her would be arduous.
After her father Barry Hunt formed the business on a handshake deal with partner Ken Thompson in 1985, Cecily found herself spending school holidays helping in the warehouse. Despite her presence, however, QSS’s “boys-only” culture was representative of the broader sector; women did not seek opportunities in the steel industry, nor were they really welcome. Cecily turned down her father’s first offer to join QSS more than 20 years ago to pursue a career outside of the family business, which did not resonate with her at the time.
When he made a second offer a decade later, Cecily could not resist the pull of the family business. However, she also knew that she had to impart her own brand of leadership – one that would radically transform QSS’s culture, which was, at best, behind the times.
Gender inequality, however, was not the only aspect of culture Cecily addressed – even though she is still the only female CEO to lead a steel company across Australia. Over her tenure, she has worked tirelessly to get to know her employees and find out about their lives, which has allowed a special cohesive work dynamic to develop.
Cecily asserts that the defining feature of successful businesses is their culture, and her family business is proof of that assertion. Since Cecily joined, QSS has thrived. Currently, it is one of the country’s longest-serving family-owned steel companies and a major player in Queensland in terms of sheet metal.