Women are redefining their position in the world. Picture a plumber, and you would probably envision a hulking man with a giant toolbelt, tinkering with the pipes in your bathroom. This image is partly accurate because plumbing is still considered a man’s world very much, even in this 21st century. However, some women are passionate about plumbing, but why does the industry remain so stubbornly male? How do you work to bring more women and girls into the trade?
Going Against the Odds
Hattie Hasan has been in the plumbing industry for nearly 30 years. She founded a network of female plumbers in the UK that has since become a licensed business under the name Stopcocks. Hattie started her training as the only female student in her college. After completing the course, she could not find a job as no one would take her being a woman. After a long wait, she decided to start her own company. Hattie, from a very young age, wanted to do something with her hands, and she was confident it was going to be a trade, but she didn’t know which one.
Back in the ’70s, Hattie in a black community was not allowed to do subjects such as metalwork, engineering, among other “boys subjects.” She had to choose between cookery, sewing, and other traditional “women chores.” She then did teaching but later on stopped that career path entirely. She then realized that she had a high affinity with water, plus its life, and so when she put all these factors together, it had to be plumbing. Immediately she joined the industry. She naturally loved it as it complimented her strengths, such as using hands and solving puzzles.
Challenges Women Continue to Face As Plumbers.
Despite years of working in this industry, she still often comes across sexist behaviors that discourage many women from joining the industry. The male figures in the industry have not yet seen the problem that women face; thus, that would be a good starting point. Visibility is also a common issue. Most of the roles depicted in books and movies are male figures; therefore, you can’t be it if you don’t see it. Very few women sign up for these courses because society and media always show plumbers as beneath them. Sexual harassment is also not unique in this industry, and they too face this challenge.
Most facilities are not integrated to accommodate female students. Therefore when it came to facilities such as washrooms, she has to use the staff’s washrooms. Most of the facilities had insensitive content everywhere, such as naked women on the calendar, among others. She was very upfront addressing such issues. Finding a job is the biggest challenge; most people have the perception that a woman plumber is unable to do the heavy lifting and heavy jobs. She sent 500 Cv, but none was willing to hire her even after follow up. They would occasionally ask her:
“Are you calling on behalf of your husband?” clients asked.
Reaching Out to Women and Girls.
Facing most of these challenges, Hattie took up the role of helping women and girls join this industry. She does this by mentoring women and girls. Hattie has been able to put up events where women gather for training. Recently, women are also entering companies as suppliers and manufacturers at higher levels; therefore, they support other women who are on the ground level in return. Women are encouraged to act like they own the place, too, and not be intimidated by the male energy surrounding them.
Her company works towards creating self-employed plumbers for women too. This platform makes women in the plumbing wold be more visible. Hattie strives to be a leader and make other women plumbers leaders too. She also encourages men to change their perception about women plumbers and see that they too can do what male plumbers do, including lifting and heavy work.