Get Girls Plumbing Campaign Launched

As the media continues to be permeated with news of mounting gender inequality in the corporate world, a new survey released today reveals that, when it comes to jobs in the trade, UK homeowners would actually relish seeing more women taking up tools.

  • 24% of women weren’t advised to take up a trade whilst at school, instead being encouraged into more stereotypical female roles such as admin or secretarial work
  • 38% of women in the UK would learn a trade, if they had their time over again
  • Less than 1% of plumbers in the UK are women
  • Almost a third of women (31%) would prefer a female plumber to carry out work on their home
  • 59% of consumers would feel positive about more women taking up a trade role.

According to a poll of 2,000 consumers by WaterSafe, the UK’s leading plumbing assurance scheme, nearly a third of women (31%) would prefer a female plumber to carry out work on their home. Reasons cited include feeling safer with a woman (37%), feeling like they wouldn’t be ripped off by a female (12%), trusting advice from a woman more than a man (10%) and the likelihood that a woman wouldn’t patronise them (10%).

Encouragingly though, four in five (77%) homeowners surveyed said the most important consideration when choosing a plumber, regardless of gender, is if they have the skills to do a good quality job.

Notably then, it would seem the current debate around bias in the boardroom doesn’t translate to a trade. Of those polled, nearly two thirds (59%) feel it’s time traditional stereotypes were broken and would like more women to take up a manual role. More so, over a third (38%) of women surveyed said that if they had chance to start out again, they would like to ‘take up a trade’ because it offers a more stable career path.

Despite this determinably warm welcome for women plumbers amongst homeowners, females remain severely under-represented in the plumbing industry. Tellingly, the most recent figures show less than 1% of the UK’s plumbers are currently female.

The issue, it would seem, is an ingrained gender bias rooted in the classroom. When asked to recall their careers advice, a third (31%) of women said the boys were more encouraged to take up a trade and a quarter (24%) feel they were coerced into a typical female role such as teaching, healthcare and office-based positions.

In a separate college study, WaterSafe has found that nearly half of all respondents (45%) don’t feel that boys and girls are given the same career opportunities and over a third of girls surveyed (36%) feel that boys are pushed into more manual trade roles than them. It’s not surprising then that the most popular career choice for girls are office/admin roles (36%), closely followed by jobs within the academic and entertainment sectors.

Hattie Hasan, founder of Stopcocks Women Plumbers, comments: “When I was at school, no-one encouraged me to think of taking up a trade and I was not allowed to study metal work and engineering which was my dream at the time. After completing a psychology degree and teaching for eight years, I decided to take up a more hands on career that meant I could be in control of my life and would give me the flexibility I’d always wanted - I chose plumbing.
“Despite the lack of direction from school, I have made it happen. I am both happy and successful. I encourage any girl who wants to go into plumbing or any trade career, to go for it!”

In response to these findings, WaterSafe is pledging its on-going support to championing women in plumbing with its ‘Get Girls Plumbing’ campaign.

Careers Advisor Donna Mason based in Essex, says: "I think WaterSafe's 'Get Girls Plumbing' Campaign is a fantastic way of putting a trade career for women on the news agenda. Stereotyping jobs by the sex of the individual is something that needs to stop. In times when more and more young people are out of work and with a skills shortage in this country, we need to be encouraging young girls into plumbing apprenticeships. Plumbing can be a very rewarding career, both financially and personally and can fit around family life. So, let's 'Get Girls Plumbing’!”
Having risen to the top of a typically male dominated industry herself, Julie Spinks, director of WaterSafe comments: “Despite the news agenda being saturated with stories of sexism and gender disparity in the commercial workplace, our research shows that the majority of homeowners would, in fact, welcome more female plumbers. However, even with consumer backing, women still remain severely under-represented in the plumbing industry despite it offering a stable, fruitful career path.
“Clearly, our research suggests this is as a result of traditional gender stereotypes ingrained at a young age. Our ‘Get Girls Plumbing’ campaign looks to alleviate this by encouraging more women to dispel the gender myth and encourage them to join the industry.”
Consumer expert Alice Beer, renowned for her tenacity, has a very successful TV career in a male dominated industry, adding: “The ‘Get Girls Plumbing’ campaign has the potential to open up a whole new world of opportunities for women when it comes to their careers. I am extremely passionate about breaking down barriers for women in the workplace and that is why I’m lending my full support to this campaign with WaterSafe.”
Also expressing her admiration for the campaign, Maria Miller, MP for Women and Equalities, says: “Many trade industries, like plumbing, are still male-dominated but women and girls should not be restricted by gender stereotypes. It’s hugely important that we show our future generations that any career path is accessible to them. So it’s great that Watersafe’s ‘Get Girls Plumbing’ campaign is challenging perceptions and helping them to have the broadest possible aspirations.”

Useful plumbing careers advice can be found on the WaterSafe 'How to become a Plumber' page and also on the National Careers Service website.

Keep up to date with the campaign and follow us @WaterSafeUK.

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