How can we make the plumbing industry more equal?

Woman fixing kitchen sink, Female Plumber, Women in plumbingAs a nation, the UK is one of the most diverse societies that exist, enabling people from a wide range of different backgrounds to live, work and thrive.

Today, the country is notorious for its progressive attitudes and willingness to accommodate all kinds of change. Yet it seems that there remain areas that are ripe for improvement, one prime example being equality in the workplace.

In spite of plumbing offering a wide range of benefits including skills that are constantly in demand and relatively decent income only 1% of plumbers in the country are female. For illustration of the 100,000 plumbers listed on the gas register, only around 500 are women.

Similar to engineering, trades in general are lagging behind in attracting women. This is largely due to sexism, stereotypes and employers who still remain with the idea that the industry should stay male dominated.

The likes of EDF energy and Water Safe have both recently ran their own PR campaigns to promote and encourage more women to take opportunities in the industry. This is certainly encouraging and shows continued efforts to make change, but what can women do to feel more confident when pursuing a plumbing career?

Many hold the belief that plumbing is preferred by males as it can involve some manual labour and there is potential for confrontation in the event that a job doesn’t go to plan.  Yet this doesn’t automatically mean the role is best suited to men, the reality is that in the event of a plumbing emergency such as a leaking pipe, no one is going to care about the gender of the person fixing it.

In recent years, many female plumbers have taken advantage of an untapped demand for female plumbers. Pink vans and a more feminine approach have popped up, which is favoured by many female clients who themselves feel more comfortable with a woman working in the home. This new and creative way of doing things is just one of the ways women in the industry are bringing something new and succeeding.

We spoke to a female plumber who works for Heatable to get her views on the industry and gender bias.

“I haven’t experienced any discrimination in the form of sexism, but that’s probably due to me being quite forthright.

I’m good at my job, so I think my confidence and experience gives neither my male counterparts nor my clients any reason to doubt me.”

How can we challenge gender stereotypes in the industry?

It’s clear that while the industry is changing and strides are being made to progress things forward, archaic views remain deep rooted.

But what can the next generation of female plumbers do to prepare themselves and continue the advancements?

Have a target to aim for – don’t just drift, it’s important to have ambition and a goal for your career. Regardless of any doubts, having a goal will allow you to stay on track despite excuses and self-criticism you may feel by being an outlier in a male dominated industry.

Be confident – many women don’t feel like they can speak up as the only female in the room – remind yourself to speak up and at your own pace. Be heard.

Pride is good – it’s good to be proud of your achievements, it bolsters your self-esteem, so do it often, as well as other females where possible.

Don’t stay silent – if you witness any gender stereotyping or biases, challenge it. You don’t have to be aggressive, but be assertive, open a positive dialogue about the topic and ask others to question their potential biases.

Woman can be plumbers

Women, like men should pursue careers they will enjoy and thrive at, preconceived notions of it being a “mans” job or messy should be left where they belong – in the past.

The industry can greatly benefit from the skills of more females pursuing roles. It’s time for us to encourage more to get involved and flourish in 2021 and beyond.

John MortonAbout the author

John Morton is a plumber in the North West of England, with over 5 years experiencing training the future generation.

 

 


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