Inspirational Woman: Georgina Gilbert | Firefighter, South Wales Fire & Rescue Service

GEORGINA GILBERTGeorgina is a Firefighter, serving in South Wales Fire and Rescue service. With over 20 years experience Georgina has seen many different incidents in her career, some tragic and distressing.

Some unusual and some just too obscure to even believe! Georgina insists that although she has a lot of experience, no two jobs are the same and on every shout you learn something different, and that’s what makes the job so exciting and rewarding.

An ambassador for gender equality and an ambition to see more women striving to do whatever job they want to, Georgina makes sure she is a visible role model to any girl or young woman wanting to embark on a career that doesn’t currently fit with gender norms or stereotypes.

Why Antarctica? Is a question everyone Georgina knows has been asking her. The answer is simple she says, we work in extreme environments, my job is not normal, so to highlight the need for greater mental health awareness and smashing gender stereotyping, what better than to push ourselves to the extreme to prove our point. Georgina intends for the expedition to be a bare all documentary of our entire journey, not just some photos of one of the most magnificent places on earth, we know that already but an honest, fly on the wall log of our mental health throughout.

Fun facts – Georgina’s only role model growing up was Wonder Woman. She never leaves the house without a Lego miniature in her pocket! Georgina once had a conversation with Eddie Izzard over a swimming pool changing room wall on how to swim and ended up exchanging numbers!

As an all-female team of firefighters from South Wales Fire and Rescue Service (SWFRS) and London Fire Brigade (LFB), they intend to be the first emergency service team to use muscle power alone to ski coast to coast across Antarctica on a route that has never been done by an all-female team before.

The challenge will take place in late 2023 with three years of specialist training and preparation required. In order to achieve their goals safely, the Fire Angels need to raise funds to secure vital equipment, satelitte communications, flights, medical cover and much more.

The Fire Angels hope to smash stereotypical barriers and inspire the next generation. The team hope the expedition will have a positive impact on future recruitment, so others can benefit from the rewarding career, as they have.

They are also looking to raise awareness of the impact of mental health on firefighters, who are often seen or portrayed as strong individuals who are impermeable to tragedy and able to cope with every situation. The Fire Angels want to highlight that emergency service workers are affected by mental health too.

To make this challenge a reality, the Fire Angels need to a raise a total of £500,000, whilst also seeking to raise vital funds for key charities such as The Firefighters Charity and The Fawcett Society. They are looking for inspirational sponsors to join them on their journey!

If you would like to sponsor the Fire Angels or have any questions, then please contact them via email: [email protected].

You can also connect with them on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and help spread the message.

The Fire Angels are also raising money via their GoFundMe page here:

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

Georgina Gilbert.  Firefighter in South Wales Fire and Rescue Service stationed at Penarth.  Boat handler and swift water technician.  I have been a FF for just over 20 years and started as a retained FF in Porthcawl.  I joined wholetime in 2000 and have never regretted my decision.  I started out as a riding instructor straight from school and followed that career, gaining a degree in Equine Science along the way until I graduated and then decided that I wanted to join a service.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

It never occurred to me when I was younger that the fire service was something I could do or join for that matter.  I spent my youth with horses and that, as far as I was concerned was my life mapped out.  It wasn’t until I graduated that I wanted to do something else.  I wanted to join a service and had always secretly wanted to join the Army or Navy but, doing the same roles as the men were doing – combat etc.  I thought there would be nothing more frustrating than joining up and not being allowed to do what I really wanted to!  Even the Police had certain closed doors to women.  The fire service however offered a career where both women and men did exactly the same roles.  Absolutely no difference.  I planned on becoming a FF and that’s exactly where I am now, on the ground floor and trying to make a difference from the bottom up.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

The initial challenge to overcome was what I thought my family would say.  The usual comments of, women don’t do that, and that’s too dangerous for a woman!  Then on joining there were comments like – you only got this job because you’re a woman; I don’t want a woman driving me (when I asked if I could do my driving qualification).  And then the question – What’s it like being a female fireman?  And then being told off for correcting the person who asked me as she was an important person visiting the station at the time!!  At the time I just wanted to fit in, and not be any different from anyone else.  It wasn’t until later in my career that I decided it was time to celebrate the difference instead of hiding exactly who I am.  I decided that when I changed brigades I would no longer hide my identity as a gay woman and help and support anyone experiencing injustice. sus

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Launching HeForShe in all three Welsh Brigades focussing on removing stereotypes and using gender neutral language.  I was very privileged to be the speaker along with the SWFRS Chief at the Senedd last June 2019.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

I’m very stubborn and I absolutely hate injustice!

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I was formally a mentor with Chwarae Teg and I’m a firm believer that everyone should have a mentor as well as be one.  There is equal amount of learning in both roles.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

To start using the word INCLUSION in statements that have the word equality in them.  The word equality has unfortunately become synonymous with statements such as ‘you’re getting more than me’ or ‘what do I get?’  By using the word inclusion, we include everyone, and this also incorporates the protected characteristics.  In 2020 we are still discussing equality but, to get further with this issue now, we need ALIES.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

Be the person you needed when you were younger.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

The expedition to Antarctica is by far the biggest thing I’ve ever taken on and it’s hard to look past it but, the biggest thing I can leave for future generations is a legacy.  A legacy that says ‘You are included, You are capable, You can achieve through adversity.

The Fire Angels
The Fire Angels

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