Powerful Women in Construction – Part 1: Frances

Across the country last week, we celebrated the women who make up our construction industry. It’s important to celebrate each and every one, as we only make up about 9% of the construction workforce (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics). While a small percentage, this is a huge jump from 2013 when women made up just 1.2% of the workforce. We interviewed a few women at Tocci to see their perspective on the industry and to recognize their impact on our company.

 Frances Hughes is the Director of Design Services, and she spent her first 30 years in the AEC (Architectural/Engineering/Construction) industry in Architecture before joining Tocci a year ago. Her role on the projects is to recognize possible design/construction hiccups and resolve them before breaking ground. She marks-up drawings and asks a lot of questions to make sure that the cost engineers and field personnel understand the design intent clearly.

“Have you ever seen the sport called ‘curling’? It’s where one person pushes a stone once, so that it glides into a target at the other end of the ice. The sweeper furiously brushes the ice to help the stone reach its target. I’m the sweeper. My job is to smooth out the bumps and help the design/construction team reach our target.”

Frances’ most interesting job so far?

“88 Wareham street because it’s a highly designed project with significant design aspirations. It was hard for me, a design veteran, to understand the documents, and to grasp the alignments and other design nuances in the design documents. The construction process will be rigorous, and will likely have some tension at times, as the design adapts to the field conditions, but it will be a BEAUTIFUL project. It will be a jewel amongst a plethora of ordinary residences in Boston. Plus, who wouldn’t want a covered parking court with a robotic valet!”

Frances came to Tocci to see if John Tocci’s quest for developing better design-delivery methods was possible. She’s rewarded every day with people who think differently about the AEC industry. She “LOOOVES” the Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) group. They do what she basically does, but then they also leverage a variety of visualization tools to improve our construction management services. For instance, VDC is using virtual models to preview layouts and VR-design options to REDUCE the time required for interior and exterior mock-ups, a cumbersome but very necessary part of multi-family residential projects.

Her advice to women in the design/construction industry:

  • Listen and Learn. Learning never stops.
  • Be curious and don’t be afraid to ask questions… it helps you learn faster and it may become your strongest asset in an industry full of people who are not so comfortable asking questions.
  • Don’t get discouraged when you realize you just asked a really stupid question…you just learned something and are that much smarter.
  • Enjoy the ride. If you are not a visionary, find someone who is and work for them. It’s incredibly important to wake up with positive energy. It’s weird, because I actually enjoy going to work now. Don’t tell John!

Frances doesn’t think she’s that interesting (we beg to differ) but she does say she has a pretty infectious smile (we’d have to agree!).

Check back Wednesday and Friday for parts 2, 3, and 4 of this series.


  1. Awesome post. Having worked with Frances Hughes for nearly 20 years, I can vouch for HER having a LOT of positive energy. Frances makes things happen and is a true force of nature. CONGRATULATIONS to TOCCI for featuring Frances first… in what is certain to be an inspirational set of interviews. Thank you!

    • Thank you for your kind words, Sandy. The more we learn about Frances the more amazing we find her to be. We’re very lucky to have her on our team!

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