There can’t be too many island businesses in the construction sector who can boast a mother and daughter on the team.

But in Karen and Rachael Warburton, who work in the concrete and quarrying operations respectively, that’s exactly what Island Aggregates have got.

With a quarry at the Point of Ayre, and depots at Santon, Foxdale and Jurby, Island Aggregates is the island’s largest supplier of ready mixed concrete, concrete blocks, natural sand and gravel and traditional and liquid floor screeds and have been serving the Isle of Man since 1957.

And with International Women’s Day fast approaching (Friday, March 8), and companies across the island celebrating their female colleagues, Working Week caught up with both Karen and Rachael to get their thoughts on working in today’s construction industry as a woman.

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourselves and your role at Island Aggregates:

Karen: ‘I’m 58 years old and an HGV driver on the concrete mixer fleet, based out of our Foxdale depot’.

Rachael: ‘I’m 32 and will pass the five-year mark with Island Aggregates later this month.

‘I work at our sand and gravel quarry up at the Point of Ayre – mainly on our wheeled loading shovels feeding the mobile crushing and screening machinery.

‘I can also operate the 360 excavator, dumpers and telehandler.

‘My role is currently part-time, also being mum to two young children – it’s an arrangement which suits me well at the current time.’

Q: What attracted you to the construction materials sector?

Karen: ‘I’d always wanted to drive wagons – in fact my 21st birthday present to myself was Class 1 HGV lessons.

‘Not long after that I met my future husband whose business centred on engineering in the agricultural sector and haulage.

‘I have been with Island Aggregates for just over a year, having been previously employed as a driver in other sectors of road haulage.’

Rachael: ‘Growing up in our family you could say the die was cast from an early age.

‘My brothers work in the industry too, our family’s quite well known in construction locally.

‘I went to college and university to study agricultural engineering and also got my Class 1 and 2 HGV licences.

‘In fact, I started with Island Aggregates as a driver and relief concrete batcher but transferred to the quarry as part time hours were available.’

Q: What are the best bits about your job?

Karen: ‘I love driving and get to do lots of it, all over the island. You meet a wide variety of people around the sites we deliver to and the craic is by and large really good.

‘Work colleagues at all our depots are a good bunch and we form a good team.’

Rachael: ‘Every day is different, I can be on different machines, we can be focussing on different products, or carrying out maintenance.

‘Challenges come along but it’s always rewarding when we overcome them.’

Q: And the worst?

Both: ‘The weather!’

Rahael: ‘The Point of Ayre is an exposed site so the wind and rain can be challenging’.

Karen: ‘Sites can be a bit muddy to say the least at this time of year.

You just get on with it though – on the flip side when the weather’s nice the outdoor nature of the work is great.’

Q: Have you faced any barriers in your career due to being a woman, and if so, how did you overcome them?

Karen: ‘Things have definitely got much better. I can remember back to being 16 years old and working with my Dad on building sites.

There would have been very few women in construction at that stage and sexist comments (veiled or otherwise) weren’t uncommon. There’s been a lot of progress since those days.

I still get the odd funny look when I arrive on a new site for the first time, but that’s rare – like I said we’re a pretty well-known family in what is a tight-knit local construction industry.

Rachael: ‘It’s just about getting stuck in and working the same as the boys. When you do that, gender doesn’t come into it.

‘It certainly helps that I’m part of a great team up at the quarry.

‘There’s always more progress to be made though, to change preconceptions. Quite often when I tell people I work up at the Point of Ayre quarry they assume I’m in the back office doing an admin role.

‘But the industry itself has come on leaps and bounds and I’ve found Island Aggregates in particular, very progressive and accommodating.’

Q: Finally, what message would you give to young females thinking about a career in the construction materials industry?

Both: ‘Go for it. Definitely - no question about it.

‘We’re increasingly seeing women in all areas of construction.

‘Yes, it’s still a male dominated industry but that’s no reason not to go for it. There is room for far more of us and with skills shortages in all areas, more women coming in will make for a more diverse workforce over time.’

Rachael: ‘Absolutely - get stuck in. If it’s not for you then so be it. But you might surprise yourself and you won’t know until you try.’

Karen: ‘And that doesn’t just apply to young women. I’ve spoken to older ladies who’ve asked about my jobs in haulage and construction and I’ve told them to give it a go – you’re never too old for a change of career.’