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Local woman breaks down gender barriers in the skilled trade industry

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Local woman breaks down gender barriers in the skilled trade industry


Published by rtownsend for Sanctuary Housing Association in Housing and also in Education

Gillian Calver with her operatives during National Nest Box Week Gillian Calver with her operatives during National Nest Box Week

Traditionally associated to males, skilled trades such as plumbing, brick laying and ground maintenance are becoming increasingly appealing to females, despite the gender stereotypes.

Whilst government figures show that it is still as little as 10% of skilled workers who are female, the latest Labour Market Statistics (released by the Office for National Statistics in February 2014) show that there are now 277,000 women in skilled trade occupations, 7,000 more than last year.

It is a number that is rising slow and steady, but all the same shows more and more women are considering the maintenance industry as a career.

Ely based Gillian Calver has built up 11 years experience in maintenance and is a prime example of how women can be successful within this male dominated field.

Enrolling herself on many courses and spending endless hours getting experience, Gillian has worked her way up the career ladder to her current position of Trade Supervisor at national property maintenance company, Sanctuary Maintenance.

She has faced challenges and gender battles along the way but now overseas ten operatives and several projects as well as dipping her toes into the world of contract management.

In support of International Women’s Day, a global day ran annually on the 8th March that inspires and celebrates women’s achievements, Gillian shares her story.

“I started working in maintenance 11 years ago as a works planner for a housing association.”

Spending her time planning and organising the work loads of operatives across the organisation, it was here that Gillian discovered an interest in maintenance and was keen to develop into a more technical role.

“I love the whole technical aspect of buildings and how it all fits together. I have a mechanical mind and I like to know how everything works.”

After initial difficulties of finding a place to begin she approached a male manager, to be told that it would not be possible to progress into this type of role without years of experience in a trade background.

“From that moment I vowed to prove him wrong and go for the goals I desired.”

Gillian signed up to an evening plumbing class as well as Open University courses in estimating and surveying. Not shy of getting her hands dirty, she also built up a portfolio of hands on experience in every trade, treating every day as a new learning experience.

“It’s one thing to know something on paper and another to actually physically carry out the task.

 “But the effort I have made working towards my goals has been worthwhile as I continue to progress with my career.”

A year ago, ready for a new, bigger challenge, Gillian successfully joined Sanctuary Maintenance as a charge hand.

She took on new responsibilities including inspecting empty properties, producing schedules for required work and managing maintenance teams to ensure this work was carried out.

Working with in a male dominated environment Gillian has found it difficult to get to where she is today. The gender stereotypes created a block that meant working longer and harder to get noticed and prove her capabilities.

Operatives where dubious and unsure of what to expect when she first joined Sanctuary; giving her a challenge and the desire to deliver.

“A year on I now get comments saying they prefer having a female manager and that they are impressed with my knowledge and how I work.”

As the government figures show, Gillian feels times are changing and there is more opportunity and understanding for females in skilled trades.

As a Trade Supervisor within a national company, she manages ten operatives and sees projects through from beginning to end; far from where she was when she was told it would not be possible.

 “I would encourage any female to enter the industry; I wish I had the opportunity when I was a teenager to get into the trade.”


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