In an industry traditionally dominated by men, a growing number of women are breaking barriers and challenging stereotypes in the plumbing trade. Despite progress being made, the representation of women in plumbing remains strikingly low. However, determined individuals like Leah Robson, Hattie Hasan, and Sovay Berriman are championing diversity, pushing for change, and creating a more inclusive future for women in the industry.
The Current State of Women in Plumbing: According to data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the proportion of women plumbers is dismally small. The estimated number of women in the field grew from 2,700 (1.9%) in 2021 to 3,500 (2.4%) in 2022. While any increase is positive, these figures highlight the pressing need for greater gender diversity in plumbing and related trades.
Addressing Assumptions and Stereotypes: Leah Robson, founder of Your Energy Your Way, emphasizes that even a 2.4% representation is woefully inadequate. Many people still hold outdated assumptions that women are unsuited for plumbing work. To challenge these stereotypes, women in the industry are actively raising awareness and advocating for more opportunities for women to thrive in traditionally male-dominated trades.
The Role of Support Networks and Social Media: Women plumbers, such as Hattie Hasan, founder of Stopcocks Women Plumbers, recognize the power of social media and support networks in connecting women across the country. Platforms like Facebook groups and TikTok enable women in the trade to share experiences, seek advice, and build a sense of community. Events organized by groups like Stopcocks further foster connections among women tradespeople, highlighting their achievements and potential.
Creating an Inclusive Workplace: While promoting equal opportunities through advertising is important, it is not enough to attract and retain women in the plumbing industry. Employers must also address specific needs and challenges faced by women. This includes considerations such as menopause support, flexible working arrangements for single parents, separate toilets, and personal protective equipment designed to fit women correctly. Plumbing companies should invest in creating an environment that welcomes and supports women, rather than treating them as an afterthought.
Challenges and Triumphs: Sovay Berriman, operating as "Plumbmaid" in Cornwall, shares her experiences as a self-employed plumber. She highlights the relief that some male customers feel in dealing with a woman in the industry, challenging the notion that tradespeople are exclusively men. While facing prejudice, Berriman emphasizes the importance of avoiding gender-based stereotypes, recognizing that individuals should be evaluated based on their skills and abilities rather than assumptions.
The journey towards gender diversity in plumbing and related trades has begun, driven by determined women like Leah Robson, Hattie Hasan, and Sovay Berriman. Despite the existing challenges and stereotypes, these women are leading the way, demanding change, and creating a more inclusive industry. Through support networks, social media, and efforts to address the specific needs of women in the workplace, progress is being made. It is essential for plumbing companies, employers, and society as a whole to embrace and celebrate the valuable contributions women can make in the industry. By doing so, we can forge a future where diversity and equality thrive in all areas of the workforce.