The Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineers has around eleven thousand members, of which only around fifty are women. The group Women in Plumbing (WPG), was formed as part of the IPHE to support the network of women that work in the plumbing industry and for women that seek information on a career as a plumber. The group offers support and advice to women already in the industry and to those considering becoming plumbers as a career move. This also helps to raise awareness to the attractive opportunities for women within the plumbing and heating sector.
Given the large demand for plumbers and professionals to service boilers and central heating system, more women are considering moving into a job that historically been very male dominated.
One of the women plumbers interviewed is an ex-teacher that followed her interest in water and technical systems. As a plumber she gets to control her own time and her own destiny and that is an important advantage for her. She cites the sense of satisfaction one gets at the end of a boiler installation job, or a leak repair.
Throughout her training as a plumber it was quite difficult to convince her male colleagues that she can do just as well as them on the plumbing and heating front, but she found it to be a challenge that needed overcoming. She still finds customers that are surprised to see a woman plumber, but nevertheless the customer trust her judgement and her professional approach. Actually many women customer prefer women plumbers as they are softer in their approach and tidier in their work.
There is criticism that the community is creating a potentially ‘hostile’ environment that deters women from becoming plumbers to reduce the shortage of plumbers in the UK. However, the skill shortage creates a pull effect that attracts more women into the plumbing sector, and helps move the balance a little bit closer towards parity.