Karen Barnicoat

I joined the Royal Navy in 2001 as a Warfare Officer and after basic training and short spell at the French Naval College, I served at sea in warfare and ship navigation roles before starting my journey as an aviator.

An Anti-Submarine Warfare specialist and Merlin Mk2 Helicopter operator, I’ve enjoyed roles as an Aircrew Instructor, Flying Training Manager, Flight Commander and more recently Senior Observer/Executive Officer of 820 Naval Air Squadron embarked in HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have deployed to the Far East, USA, Mediterranean, North Arabian Gulf, North Atlantic, North Sea and UK waters in Frigates HMS CORNWALL, HMS PORTLAND, HMS NORTHUMBERLAND and HMS KENT, helicopter carrier/assault ship HMS OCEAN and aircraft carriers HMS ARK ROYAL and HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH, as well as serving ashore in Oman, at Royal Navy Air Station Culdrose in Cornwall and Navy Command Headquarters in Portsmouth.

I’m currently serving in MoD Whitehall as Military Assistant to the Assistant Chief of Defence Staff (Personnel Capability). My role is primarily one of Executive support to the Admiral, advising staff and liaising with ministerial and senior military/Civil Service offices on all Military HR matters. Alongside this I lead a voluntary Working Group tasked with looking at how we can improve gender balance at the most senior levels of the military.

Hugely passionate about promoting an inclusive culture and maximising everyone’s potential, my work in this area has been incredibly rewarding. I lead a diverse civilian and military team of volunteers with no formal hierarchy from multiple areas of Defence who have drawn together best practice from every sector, from international comparators and from our own experiences to identify ways in which we can improve gender diversity at the highest levels of the Armed Forces. We are looking across all elements of the people environment from policies to promotions rules, education, training and addressing behaviours, and are already making a tangible difference thanks to a brilliantly collaborative and innovative group of volunteers.

Though my work is London-based, I live in the South West with my wife. We both have a passion for the outdoors and enjoy walking with our border terriers, paddleboarding, kayaking and getting away in our campervan. Any remaining free time is spent reading or on long runs along the South West coast path and I have added road cycling and woodwork to my hobbies during lockdown.