Leading Ladies: Gillian George

Leading Ladies: Gillian George

Now the Head of Operations for Sanctuary Maintenance Contractors Ltd, Gillian George tells us about her journey into construction and how she enables other women to join the sector.

When she was growing up, Gillian describes the cultural norm of the time as being that “females were expected to work in an office”. Finding this expectation frustrating, she always wanted to do something practical. It was when she got a job for a local council as a works planner that her interest in the trades grew. She recalls: “This was the most exciting role I had ever had. I planned all the works for the men to go out and fix things. It was interesting and I started to learn a lot about the building trade”. Gillian worked there for 11 years until she sought progression. “I realised I had been following the instruction that I was just a female who had to work in an office”. She approached her senior manager and expressed her interest in becoming a trade supervisor and asked for advice on how to progress into that role. She tells us: “He was very dismissive. He said that I needed a trade, an HNC in construction and a lot of building experience. It was not going to happen and I should just aim to be an Administrators Manager”. Gillian told PE that it was her manager’s reaction that led to her seeking development elsewhere. She said: “It put fire in my belly to get into gear and shoot for the stars”.

Whilst working full time, Gillian put herself through Open University courses and attained a Higher National Certificate (HNC) in construction and a BTEC in Estimating and Surveying. After completing these qualifications, she then put herself through college evening courses to gain her plumbing qualification. It was during this course, when they covered a section on electrics, she found herself interested in the electrical sector. She tells us:

“As soon as I qualified, I signed up for the electrician’s course and ended up spending three years on evening courses. I am now qualified to QS level”. When asked how it felt entering back into education, Gillian said: “It was especially difficult being an adult learner in my class as I was approaching 40 and people either assumed I was a teacher or the mother of one of the students. It just made me work extra hard and prove myself”.

Although she had secured her qualifications, Gillian worked extra hours unpaid in order to go out with different trades and gain site experience. She comments: “I worked my way up taking every opportunity to get to the supervisor role I desired, then to Operations Manager of Maintenance and to where I am currently, Head of Operations of Maintenance”.

Gillian now spends her time actively encouraging females into the trades. She told PE: “I do a lot of talks in schools and work alongside a charity, Women into Construction, joining them at their events and telling my story with the hope of inspiring others. I am also a member of the electrical forum, Open Circuit, helping other females and offering them work experience with the housing association I work for. I have helped a couple of them into employment with Sanctuary Maintenance once they qualified”.

To contact Gillian about work experience opportunities, please email: Gillian.George2@sanctuary-housing.co.uk

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