Our Stopcocks Women Plumbers are often referred to as Inspiring but what does ‘being an inspiration’ mean and does it help anyone to have ‘inspiration’?
There are so many ways our women plumbers are an inspiration and each of them are.
Anyone who has to overcome this kind of odds is an inspiration.
With numbers of skilled tradeswomen declining* and the proportion estimated to be at it’s highest 1.2% and in many trades 1 in every 300 or less, any woman working in skilled trades has to have extraordinary determination to succeed. Anyone who has to overcome this kind of odds is an inspiration.
Don’t get me wrong, I know many of these women and they are truly amazing. At the very least, they quietly get on and do an exceptional job as standard because they know that being such a minority means whatever they do will be noticed so they had better make sure it is excellent. To succeed in skilled trades is so difficult they have to really love the work, merely doing it to make some kind of statement would not fuel them to overcome the obstacles they encounter.
Others campaign and support other women coming into the hostile environment of the construction industry all they can (and recent research is showing that even men find it hostile). At Stopcocks Women Plumbers we provide a route for women to become self-employed for ta few reasons – 1) that only by being self-employed are women plumbers visible to customers and as role models – 2) we believe working in jobs in the industry is potentially harmful to women we have heard too many stories of the many ways women and girls are discriminated against and we are not just talking about name calling, and daily verbal harassment, it’s often much more serious (we believe that working for themselves is safer, better for them), and – 3) we want to open up the opportunities for women to enter this great industry where there is massive satisfaction and an excellent living to be earned for anyone (male or female) wanting to enter it.
We have been highly successful at utilising our small marketing budget to promote women plumbers and women in plumbing and are therefore frequently asked for speakers to inspire either children in schools or women at events.
Some of our plumbers are happy to do this and are excellent speakers – although some just want to get on with their work or are too shy. It’s important to point out here, that as self-employed women, each time one of our plumbers takes time out of her busy schedule to speak at an event, she is not working, not earning, these engagements cost our plumbers money to attend, so in effect they are actually donating considerably more than their time and their story.
As I said before, as women making their way in an industry so dominantly male, they all have incredible and inspiring stories to tell, but is it in anyone’s interest to tell these stories?
Are their struggles to overcome family attitudes, stereotypes, laddish insults in college and then no employers being prepared to give them work, useful to hear? Because they manage to find the one company working actively for them and become proficient at plumbing and serving householders with excellence does that make a difference to their listeners?
Does hearing about the hate mail our company receives edifying to anyone? Does knowing they are often physically assaulted, sometimes sexually, actually help anyone – and does not saying this happens make things worse? Who actually need to hear these stories? Certainly not children in schools (but is editing the stories for them leading them into an unsafe situation?) and women at ‘inspirational’ events are not in a position to change things to make the situation better or safer.
Who do we serve and how?
And finally, when we listen to this ‘inspiration’ does it transform or empower us?
It’s the responsibility of the listener to take the message of these stories and use it in our own lives, but how often do we?
*About this dataset
Employment by industry (Labour Force Survey). This table is updated four times a year in February, May, August and November.
Numbers of women working in construction down from 326,000 in Jan-March 2006 to 270,000 Jan-March 2016