Last September an extraordinary thing, the WIT Conference, happened. It really shouldn’t have been that special to have 80 women plumbers in a room at one time but it was.
Mica May from Stopcocks Women Plumbers explains what makes the Women Installers Together Conference this July 4th so unusual.
There are estimated to be 500 women registered with Gas Safe as Engineers and we believe that 1% of all plumbers are women. This means many women in the plumbing and gas industry never meet another one.
There can be many obstacles in the way of women plumbers training and in jobs, things as simple as there not being women’s toilets in the college for students, (fortunately rare now, but it has happened that trainees had to use the staff loos) to having work graffiti’d with male body parts, to being told ‘women just can’t do plumbing luv, believe me, I don’t mean any harm but it’s a waste of time trying’, to being penalised for not being able to lift things alone that it would be against health and safety regulations for anyone to lift alone. None of these things in themselves are so bad – unless your back is actually damaged, but when they’re relentlessly happening every day and you never meet anyone who supports you it can get too much.
Almost everyone concentrates on this and why the numbers are so low and what can be done to increase them and is there a point, because since the numbers are low, surely that’s because women don’t want to do such dirty and heavy work (like changing nappies, carrying babies all day and moving around sick people in hospital constantly isn’t dirty and heavy enough!) But last year Hattie Hasan founder of Stopcocks Women Plumbers and general force-of-nature had an idea that it might be fun to celebrate the achievement of the women who stay, those who become plumbers, who go out every day and solder, fix leaks, fit bathrooms, mend boilers, make sure toilets flush perfectly and unblock drains that’re full of someone’s hair (it still happens even though gadgets to stop this are cheap and easy to get).
She came up with the idea of the WIT Conference when several excellent and national companies contacted her wanting to ‘do something’ for women plumbers. Knowing that they’d probably rather get together and talk about pipes than have a pamper day, it occurred to Hattie that organising a whole day together might be something women plumbers would enjoy. She wanted to celebrate the one’s who’d made it and stayed. The WIT Conference was born.
‘But!’ I hear, ‘surely the excellent plumbing expos that happen several times a year give women plumbers the chance to meet up and talk about plumbing?’
Strangely, no. Women do go to these but the chances of meeting other women on the tools are slim and sadly at some of the stalls women literally have to jump up and down in front of the reps to be taken notice of (it’s happened, we’ve done it and still no-one sold us big tools).
WIT Conference is different. You don’t stroll around with hundreds of other plumbers looking at stalls and avoiding eye contact with the reps (unless you want it, that’s when they don’t pay you attention). You get breakfast and sit in a room together all day having an experience and lunch, and you meet and talk and get to know other plumbers and the manufacturers supporting the growth in our numbers, who ‘get’ how the whole industry will benefit from having more women in it.
At WIT Conference you’ll hear inspiring stories and receive some training that will actually help you carry out your whole life and work on a daily basis, you find out how other women have done it, their mistakes and their triumphs, you’ll make new friends.
All the feedback about last year’s content was excellent which is why this year’s will be similar.
It’s the whole day, not something you arrive at anytime, you’ll definitely miss out if you attempt that.
And WIT Conference has really good raffle prizes, and the lunch and breakfast are provided free.
It’s really worth coming. Get your free tickets here.
We plan to make WIT Conference a regular feature of the plumbing year, around this time. Look out for it next year too.