What kind of woman wants to be a woman plumber?
Besides training, what qualities are needed to be a woman plumber?
What opportunities exist to be a woman plumber?
In 2017 there’s a growing awareness of women plumbers and gas engineers along with women working in other skilled trades, but what does it actually take to succeed and be a woman plumber? Mica May Operations and Marketing Director of Stopcocks Women Plumbers takes a look.
Obviously, one of the first essential qualities is to be practical, there are a whole host of women and men who hate practical work who’re clearly not the type to enjoy a career in plumbing.
The majority of women we’ve encountered who want to be a woman plumber have already had other jobs, so here’s a list of what some of them have done previously:
Engineer (not too surprising)
Jill of all trades (not too surprising)
Infant School Teacher (more surprising)
Geriatric Consultant (quite surprising)
Buyer for a major high street retailer, including lingerie and cosmetics (very surprising)
IT specialist (not surprising)
Ex-forces (not surprising)
In spite of what those who suggest that “Women can’t do plumbing luv, they’ll run home when they break a nail” say, even the lingerie buyer already had short nails, so that doesn’t seem to be too much of a problem for women per se.
The other major reason some people feel women as a gender are unsuited to plumbing is because “it’s dirty luv, you’ll get your hands dirty”. They’re not wrong, it isn’t as clean as office work, but nursing is a very dirty job. Dealing with bodily fluids is quite unpleasant, but somehow, still suitable for the ‘gentler sex’. While we’re talking about bodily fluids, mothers of babies regularly deal with them without being accused of being unfeminine.
There are some bodily fluids involved in plumbing, mostly when unblocking toilets; in our experience this is a very small proportion of the job. When dealing with toilets, the problem is usually the flush mechanism, and if they’re leaking, the water is most often clean. Leaks of effluent account for probably a
couple of jobs a year and blockages that a plumber rather than a drains company can fix another couple.
In general then, plumbing isn’t really any dirtier than gardening; usually considered ‘quite suitable’ for a woman or dealing with horses (only for the middle and upper classes obviously) about two thirds a female occupation.
We have encountered women plumbers who get their nails done at the weekend and go out looking quite the opposite of what most people think of when they imagine a plumber.
Seriously though, an ability to ‘chunk down’ an issue and think systematically is necessary, especially for diagnosis of problems and designing systems, particularly heating.
Physical strength is necessary, but Popeye type muscles aren’t required. We’ve found that clever use of the brain muscle helps Stopcocks Women Plumbers lift heavy objects through the use of levers, that and observing health and safety regulations and getting someone else to help.
Qualities many women possess in spades that are needed are determination – to persist in the face of everyone who tells you that you can’t or shouldn’t and who might be quite abusive but call it banter, a good sense of humour, the ability to think creatively and a solution focussed mindset. A young trainee tells us the ability to cope with the boredom of training alongside a group of lads who’re being channeled towards plumbing although they feel no passion for the trade is also required, because the pace of the learning is too slow for her. This isn’t such a problem for older plumbing trainees where colleges recognise time is of the essence and often the learning is taken individually.
Overlooked in the industry in general is the need to provide great customer service and to deal with people, who might be distressed, in their own homes. These are skills women in the careers they’re ‘expected’ to do are expected to have. At Stopcocks we don’t assume a customer service mindset in our plumbers, it can be trained and we provide training and guidelines to ensure Stopcocks plumbers are polite, friendly, trustworthy and don’t patronise or baffle customers with jargon or simply not explain what they’re doing.
Opportunities to be a woman plumber?
Well obviously we believe our own Stopcocks Women Plumbers franchise offers the best of all opportunities to be a woman plumber working for yourself but with the backing of a great team. Other excellent opportunities in the industry are in some of the bigger construction firms; many contract out plumbing work, but those who don’t have great job opportunities to be a woman plumber. The other large and often overlooked opportunity is working in a housing association building maintenance team. For those women plumbers who definitely want a job or who feel they need a job while they become fully competent these are probably the best places to work.
We do feel that many of the qualities that help women be excellent plumbers also fit them for self-employment, determination and hard work being just two. At Stopcocks we provide many of the backup services plumbers gain from being in a job although some marketing is required. Dealing professionally and fairly with customers means our plumbers usually get the jobs they go for and our excellent answering service means jobs aren’t missed because customers encounter a friendly human not a voicemail. This and our brilliant online system mean evenings and other time off aren’t spent on admin and paperwork.
All of this is why we feel a Stopcocks franchise provides the very best of all opportunities to be a woman plumber for ‘ladies’ who don’t mind getting their hands dirty.