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Celebrating Women in Construction Week: Karen’s Story

This Women in Construction Week, we want to shine a spotlight on the incredible contributions of women in the construction industry. We had the privilege of sitting down with Karen, an expert trainer at 3B Training, to discuss her experiences, challenges, and triumphs as a woman in construction.

In an industry where women make up only a small percentage of the workforce, Karen’s journey is both inspiring and empowering. As a trainer at 3B Training, she brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the table, challenging stereotypes and paving the way for future generations of women in construction.

340,000 women work in the construction industry within the UK.

Join us as we delve into Karen’s story, exploring the highs and lows of her career, the importance of diversity in the construction industry, and her hopes for the future of women in this field. From breaking barriers to empowering others, Karen’s story is a testament to the resilience and determination of women in construction.

Can you tell us about your background and how you became interested in pursuing a career in construction? 

“I started my construction career as a Contracts Coordinator, essentially supporting Site Managers and Contract Managers before the era of the internet and computers. This experience taught me construction from the basics, including programming works and construction terminology. When health and safety regulations evolved in 1994, I ensured compliance. Eventually, due to my rapport with colleagues and subcontractors, I transitioned into a Health and Safety Officer role in the 2000s.”

Karen using machinary

What challenges have you faced as a woman working in construction, and how have you overcome them? 

“When I started in construction, there were very few women on building sites. My strange sense of humour helped me fit in with site banter quickly. However, at the beginning it was really difficult. I would walk onto a site and if I challenged anyone, the first thing out of their mouth would be ‘What do you know? I bet you have learnt everything from a book and think you know everything because you have read about it’, however I was fortunate to learn construction from the ground up. Despite the challenges, I learned a lot from experienced men in the industry. I have a thick skin and always ask questions to learn more. I don’t let offensive comments bother me; instead, I share my background and laugh it off. In a male-dominated industry, I understand not everyone will change for me, and I don’t expect them to.”

Reflecting on your experiences, what opportunities are available to women in construction that you believe other women should know about? 

“The company where I began my career had its own training program and hired both male and female apprentices without discrimination. This was where I first saw women working in trades like joinery, plastering, bricklaying, and electrical work. However, not all companies had this inclusive mindset. In school, I wanted to learn woodworking, metalworking, and technical drawing, but was steered toward sewing and cooking because they were considered “appropriate” for girls. While things have improved in schools, women still face significant challenges in construction. Many obstacles, both physical and mental, discourage women from staying in the field. Despite often being more knowledgeable and qualified than men, I’ve experienced unequal pay and felt undervalued simply because of my gender. Even today, I feel the need to exceed expectations to be taken seriously, and unfortunately, some men still resist accepting women in the industry.”

Woman looking at scaffolding


What advice would you give to other women who are considering entering or advancing in this field?  

“If construction is your passion, go for it! I personally love it and can’t imagine doing anything else.”

What positive changes have you witnessed in the industry in terms of gender diversity and inclusivity, and how do you envision these changes evolving in the future? 

“I’ve noticed more women on construction sites lately, and they’re doing fantastic work in their chosen trades. It’s really positive to see. Nowadays, it’s not surprising to see a woman on site, which is a great step forward.”

Can you share any courses, qualifications, or resources that you’ve found helpful within your career in construction?

“I gained the NEBOSH General Certificate qualification, and when my role changed with a new company, I also completed the NVQ Level 6 in Construction. Additionally, I have an NVQ Level 6 in Health and Safety, as well as completed courses such as Face Fit Testing. I would recommend NEBOSH or an NVQ in Health and Safety for those interested in health and safety.”

Watch our Women in Construction video series on the 3B Training YouTube Channel.

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