What would you think if you called your local plumbing company and a woman plumber came to the door to handle your repairs? Let’s be honest with ourselves, though I can only speak for myself and say, “I would be pleasantly surprised.” After giving it some thought, I may even expect more from her than her counterpart. We still have our stereotypes, but hopefully, those will fade over time. We wouldn’t feel the same if it were a man. The plumbing trade does lack diversity and always has when it comes to women plumbers. In fact, we can say the same for all manual labor trades.
I noticed the other day we had some heavy street construction. When I looked up, a woman was operating one of the tractors, and I had to take a second look. I asked myself, “Why did I take a second look?” Because it’s not common to see a woman driving a tractor, and the same is true for woman plumbers. But hopefully, that will change over time.
What Might Be The Solution?
Is it bias that’s causing the lack of women plumbers? What can we do as individuals and as a community to promote more women to become plumbers? Starting with the perception of women plumbers is a good place to begin. One idea is for people to begin cultivating the idea of women plumbers at an early age so that the concept becomes second nature to them when they reach adulthood. Let’s face it, mainstream media has shaped much of society that includes influences through television shows, commercials, movies, and other media events.
Our media should show women plumbers in a positive light to encourage women to consider pursuing a career in the trade. As a nation, we need to educate women about the many benefits of plumbing and the sense of pride that comes with being a vital sector of our industry. Finally, we need to build a new worldview where women plumbers are as common as school teachers, nurses, doctors, or lawyers.
The Word “Manual” In Manual Labor has Nothing To With Gender
I had to disagree with a statement made by Mahrukh Karimi from smartservice.com. She said, “I’m convinced, however, that the stigma surrounding women in the plumbing industry and other field service industries can change without resorting to rebranding the term to ‘wo-manual’ labor.” The first thing we need to understand is that “manual labor” is not a brand; it’s a term that derives from the Latin word for “hand,” and in simple terms, it means “work completed using muscle and bones of the body.” The “man” in manual labor has nothing to do with the gender of a man or a woman. It has to do with a job requiring or using physical skills and energy–––regardless of gender.
A Stigma Is A Mark Of Disgrace, Let’s Use Stereotypes
As for stigmas, males also have them. For example, 91% of nurses are female, and 9% are male. Women make up 81.6% of social workers and 69.9% of counselors. As for stigmas, we have them across all genders, some more than others. And without question, we have them for women more than men when it comes to the “services workforce.” I prefer to call them stereotypes versus stigmas.
We Need To Think Differently About Women Plumbers
A stigma is “a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.” In the workforce, it would be a mark of disgrace associated with a particular job. Unfortunately, the word has been overused and taken well out of context. For example, many of us born in the ’60s and early ’70s are not accustomed to women plumbers, similarly to male nurses. Undeniably, the 20th Century was full of stigmas and stereotypes regarding women working in the plumbing and electrical trades.
We’re now well into the 21st Century, and we still need to do better. We can use stigma or disgrace when it comes to addressing equal pay. According to census.gov, we still have large gender pay gaps in legal, finance, and sales jobs between men and women. Although in many of the areas of formal education, women are making huge strides. In the 1960s, 1 in 25 lawyers were women; today, 38% of all lawyers are women.
We Need More Women Plumbers Entering The Workforce
According to the Department of Labor / Bureau of Labor Statistics, plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters are projected to see a 16% growth from 2016 to 2026. The plumbing industry needs more qualified plumbers regardless of gender. While other sectors have seen significant growth for women, the trend hasn’t had the same fortune for women in construction. Only a slight increase of .04% from 1978-1983 to 2005. Additionally, 2010 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that only 1.5 % of 553,000 pipe layers, steamfitters, pipefitters, and plumbers were women.