Plumbing has been a male dominated profession since its inception all the way back in 2500 B.C., but lately, more and more women are eagerly joining this trade.
From an all girls plumbing and construction class in Poway, California to the Middle East, where Jordanian and Syrian women are starting plumbing companies, women plumbers are suddenly everywhere.
This May, Master Plumber Erin Swetland is speaking out about the importance of bringing more women into technical trades. And with a shortage of plumbers here in the United States, it’s an idea that’s gaining traction.
In an essay published in New York Magazine, the Master Plumber described how she first entered the plumbing world. Like most plumbers, she started with an apprenticeship.
“He [Tony] was like a dad figure, I was his apprentice. I went with him on all his jobs. His goal was to teach me everything he knew and have me go on bids, because I’m a good talker and people usually trust women more. Especially single women: They might worry about having some big, beefy lug coming into their home. Tony was banking on me sticking around because I’d be good for business.”
Tony was one of the driving forces in Swetland becoming a plumber. She knew that trades were the way to go to make money, but felt that women were often steered away from these careers.
“In those stupid career fairs nobody ever suggested to the little girls, ‘Get into a trade, you’ll make a ton of money, and you can have a lifelong career.'”
Now that a college education is more expensive than ever, more young women are looking at alternatives. That’s why the Abraxas High School in Poway decided to offer all-girl construction classes, said Principal David MacLeod.
“It’s to give girls an idea of careers they might not have thought of,” he said. “Or they can do their own work on their home and electricity.”
And according to student Alana Johnson, it’s working.
“When you think of construction, you automatically think it’s a guy thing,” Johnson told The San Diego Tribune. “In this class, there’s a lot of teamwork. And I can use saws and hammers and I don’t need a guy to use that. It will benefit me in the future to have [these skills.]”
However, getting more women involved in technical careers may have broader benefits for the economy. Diverse industries and companies consistently perform better when compared to non-diverse industries.