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Highlighting Women in Construction

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Women in the construction industry are a cut above the average, and the skill, grit, heart, and sense of purpose they lead with are unmatched. Get to know these pillars of the WIC community in this blog post.

As any construction professional will tell you, working in the trades is no easy feat. Numerous challenges come from working in such a fast-paced, highly variable, and physically and mentally demanding industry. The same is especially true for women in the trades, as they can have additional obstacles to tackle along the way and even in the industry itself. Today, in honor of Women in Construction Week, we are highlighting five incredible women in the construction industry, spanning across the country, working in various levels and areas of construction, and who are active and uplifting members of their local and nation-wide construction communities. These women work to inspire those around them and have all reached great heights through their tenacity, willingness to learn, and passionate pursuit of their work. Get to know these pillars of the WIC community below, and if you find yourself as inspired by their stories as we are, consider connecting with them and plugging into the vast network of women in construction across the nation.


Nicole SanchezNicole Sanchez is the Director of Project Development with C. W. Drivers, is the host of the popular podcast, The Construction Influencer, and is a proud mom to a spunky 7-year-old girl named Bella. These three elements make up her proudest passions. Based out of California, Nicole’s ample experience learning the field and working to balance her ambitious professional goals with her active and involved home-life make her a brilliant point of reference for executive-level women who are looking for an even balance of family and career in their lives.

Megan KarstenMegan Karsten is a Project Manager at Karsten Interiors, a family business based out of Houston, TX, that specializes in commercial interior contracting. Megan began working full-time in the family business after graduating with her degree from the University of Texas at Austin and has been with the company ever since. Her tenacious commitment to her company’s growth and her local community of contractors are unparalleled, making her a great leader by example.

Barbi HoldemanBarbi Holdeman is the Co-Founder and COO of the Arizona-based pond building company, The Pond Gnome (Est. 2000). Barbi has worked in multiple industries and developed a laundry list of unique perspectives and skills that have propelled her to her current level of expertise. The Pond Gnome has grown from its humble beginnings and today has a multi-million-dollar sales goal. Barbi’s ample experience, willingness to learn on all days and in all ways and absolute passion for growth make her the kind of leader ladies can learn multitudes from and would absolutely want in their corner.

Stephanie BurgessStephanie Burgess is the Co-Founder/Operations Manager at Burgess Construction LLC, a Washington-based contracting company she founded together with her husband. She handles everything from sales and vendor orders to customer relationship management, marketing, and more. Burgess Construction has only been in business since early 2020, and though last year (2021) was only their first full year in business, this year they are projected to do $1.8. million in revenue in 2022. Stephanie has mastered the art of utilizing her resources and reaching out her hand to others in her community, to lift them up as she rises.

Barbie The WelderBarbie the Welder is a San Antonio-based Metal Sculptor and Freelancer. Barbie comes from a background of addiction and substance abuse. At one of her all-time lows, Barbie saw a metal sculptor at work in the opening scene of the movie, “Forrest Gump,” and something inside her told her it was her destiny to weld art. Since then, Barbie has become the self-supported social media sensation she is today, with a whopping 83.5 thousand Instagram followers, 164.3 thousand TikTok followers, and 26 thousand LinkedIn followers. Today, Barbie uses her platform to advocate for trades careers, destigmatize overcoming substance abuse, and act as a massive supporter of her community.

Check out the questions below to learn from these amazing women’s stories, see how they’ve overcome obstacles, discover their tips and tricks for a well-balanced life, and leave with some encouragement for your own career in the trades.

What is your favorite part about being a leader? What is your least favorite part?

“My very favorite part of being a leader is when one of our team members expresses how much they love what we do as a company, our company culture, and/or their specific job. I love being able to advance someone to the next level in the company when they’ve grown into that position from where they started once upon a time. It’s an absolute thrill!

My least favorite part of being a leader is the worry. Worry is my arch-nemesis. I oversee everything going on from a higher platform, step in where I need to, continually train the administrative team when needed, and create and revise systems as needed. And still, I worry—I’m always terrified that something (or someone) will fall between the cracks, and I still feel guilty when I take any time off when my team is working.”

—Barbi Holdeman, The Pond Gnome, Phoenix, AZ

“The very best part about being a leader is the opportunity to help peers in the industry grow and see them succeed. Being a leader has a lot of responsibilities, though, and juggling those takes a lot of effort. Contrary to what people might think, being a leader is not like being a manager. To be a leader, you can’t just tell people what to do; you have to lead people to want to do better and find what motivates them.”

—Megan Karsten, Karsten Interiors Services, Houston, TX

“I don’t know if there’s any one thing that is my favorite! I think any leader knows it’s a collaboration of many things. For me, I’m a people person at heart. I love to connect with people, and I love to figure out what makes people tick and what their passions are. In that, I’m able to lead in a way that aligns with what they want their outcome to be. That’s my number one thing. And then watching and witnessing that person develop into who they shared with me that they want to be.

No matter how many times it happens, team member separation is never something I look forward to. Whether it’s us as a company separating from a team member, or a team member separating from the company, it is never an easy conversation to have. We’re losing a resource, too, from the company perspective. So that is by far my least favorite part of leadership.”

—Nicole Sanchez, C.W. Driver Companies, Newport Beach, CA

“My favorite part about being a leader is getting to be a great boss. The hardest part at times is the weight of providing for a team and the fear of letting them down. I take my leadership role very seriously and I know that I have many families looking at us to provide them with jobs to do and a great work environment. Some of the best advice I’ve ever heard as a leader is, “When you’re the boss, you’re the topic of someone’s dinner time conversation. Make sure you’d be proud to hear what is said about you each night when your employees go home to their families.” I try to lead my team with this in mind.”

—Stephanie Burgess, Burgess Construction LLC, Snohomish, WA

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How do you balance your role in your company and your family life?

“Fortunately, I’m able to work from home for most parts of my job. This makes balancing all the tasks of work and home fairly simple, though it can still be exhausting. My husband and I work great together, and when we’re getting overwhelmed with too much “shop talk,” we stop and schedule time in the future to pick up the conversation when we’re both ready to do so. My teenage daughter rides along with me to sales calls and helps me with things when work is busy. It’s a family effort for sure.”

—Stephanie Burgess, Burgess Construction LLC, Snohomish, WA

“Your kids are always watching. That’s the why. What I love about leadership is that we get to look into the purpose of our people, and my daughter IS my purpose. My husband is great about reminding me that she’s watching me and I am making a difference in her life.

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that I’ve got a small tribe here to support me. Bella is blessed with four strong, loving parents, and we are so supportive of one another. At the end of the day, it’s not only about us getting done what we need to get done but also about making sure Bella feels taken care of and supported in her little life. We are women who work and parent, we just figure out how to balance it. I think there’s so much power in that, alone.”

—Nicole Sanchez, C.W. Driver Companies, Newport Beach, CA

“When Parker was young, it was difficult at times, no doubt. He spent many weekends at home shows and trade shows, hanging out with us during seminars and presentations, handing out brochures, and just generally looking cute enough to make people stop and look at what we had to offer. I took time when I could to just hang out with him and let him be a kid, but when you have a growing, struggling business, it’s easy to allow it to consume you.

Today, Paul and I are challenged to find the time to be a couple again and not just business partners. It seems that no matter what we’re doing, talk of business always seems to trickle in. And don’t even get me started on his damn phone! This year, we are taking a 4-day weekend once a month (April – November) to decompress and spend time just the two of us. We have a team in place that can run on their own for at least a few days without our presence, and we’re working diligently to expand that time…”

—Barbi Holdeman, The Pond Gnome, Phoenix, AZ

“My husband and I are both in construction so unlike others in the industry, we actually do bring our work home. We discuss future projects that we see coming into the market, our professional goals, and how we can help each other achieve those goals. We take the time to see customers after hours and attend industry events, but we do make sure to have that time at home together every day.”

—Megan Karsten, Karsten Interiors Services, Houston, TX

“That’s a challenge! Building my brand and creating sculptures takes up 90% of my waking time—though, no complaints because I’m happily and lovingly obsessed with it! But I do spend time with my sons on a daily basis, if only just to have a meal some days. Every moment we get is special to us!”

—Barbie the Welder, San Antonio, TX

What has your experience been working as a woman in a male-dominated industry?

“I don’t struggle with it at all. If someone is going to think less of me because I’m female, that’s their problem—and their loss.

I will say that the fastest way to not be taken seriously is to fake it. If you don’t know something, admit it, then learn it—and get back to them with the answer. You will be respected for that far more than if you spit out an answer you’re not sure about because someone will call you on it, and then you’ve lost all credibility. Game over.

I’ve come to realize that we women have way more power than we give ourselves credit for. Yes, there are still some men who will only do business or work with other men. That’s their problem and their limitation, not yours. Remember: success is the best revenge. Catch me if you can, boys!”

—Barbi Holdeman, The Pond Gnome, Phoenix, AZ

“The unknown of what women can bring to a team is huge. Although many women are joining the industry, some men have not been exposed to women in management roles yet in their careers. Women bring a different aspect to problem-solving. I see women as the gray area when some men can be very black or white. Our perspective on a job site issue can help change the way the team works through an issue as well as the way the team members feel as they are working through the issue. Women bring emotional intelligence to every conversation they are involved in, which can change the way people positively interact with one another.”

—Megan Karsten, Karsten Interior Services, Houston, TX

“I’ve never seen myself as different being a woman in the welding industry. I just love to weld and create so I just jump in and do the work that makes my heart happy! I love my ability to inspire others with my actions.”

—Barbie the Welder, San Antonio, TX

“I thought about this question for a while. I really like working in this industry and find it really easy to work with men. I have to admit that I don’t find this part of my job challenging at all. I don’t have a construction background, but I love the industry and find that people in the trades are some of the best I’ve met.”

—Stephanie Burgess, Burgess Construction LLC, Snohomish, WA

What would you tell other women interested in getting into the trades?

“Working in the trades can be empowering. From the experiences I’ve had, it’s a welcoming community. I started two years ago with no experience and no knowledge. If you like hard work and the sense of pride that comes from building something with your own hands, go for it.”

—Stephanie Burgess, Burgess Construction LLC, Snohomish, WA

“Do it! Welding or any career in the trades is deeply fulfilling. Working with your hands to build or repair something and your mind to problem solve is a deeply rewarding career path with almost unlimited potential!”

—Barbie the Welder, San Antonio, TX

“Do not be afraid to ask questions. If there is something unknown, avoid answering the question without the knowledge to do so. People appreciate honesty, and it will take you a long way in your career.”

—Megan Karsten, Karsten Interior Services, Houston, TX

“Have a learning mindset. Never think that you know it all already. Learning keeps you humble, keeps you authentic, and keeps you young. Hone your critical thinking skills. Don’t just accept that because something has always been done a certain way, it should continue to be done that way. Be innovative, be different, be YOU.

When you have a win, celebrate it! Enjoy the fruits of your successes, no matter how minor they seem at the time. There will be challenges, good ol’ boys clubs, setbacks, failures. But those are all learning experiences when you have the right attitude.

There are A LOT of great women out there doing great things in all areas of life. Find one in the trade that you’re interested in and follow her website, Facebook page, YouTube channel, etc. There is no ceiling but the one you create for yourself. YOU have the power!”

—Barbi Holdeman, The Pond Gnome, Phoenix, AZ

In Conclusion

It’s easy to see from this small subset of questions that the women in the construction industry are a cut above the average, and the skill, grit, heart, and sense of purpose they lead with are unmatched. Many thanks to today’s interviewees, Megan Karsten (Karsten Interior Services), Barbi Holdeman (The Pond Gnome), Stephanie Burgess (Burgess Construction), Nicole Sanchez (C.W. Driver Companies), and Barbie the Welder, for their contributions. For more Women in Construction content, tune in to our most recent episode of The Quit Getting Screwed Podcast and listen to Nicole Sanchez dive deep into her industry experience. Additionally, if you need assistance with your contracts, your cases, or any other pressing legal matters, connect with our women-led Construction Law Firm, and build a better business, today. Happy Women in Construction Week!

This article is intended as a general educational overview of the subject matter and is not intended to be a comprehensive survey of recent jurisprudence, nor a substitute for legal advice for a specific legal matter. If you have a legal issue, please consult an attorney.

Karalynn Cromeens

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