‘Sexist and outdated’ stereotypes impact women entering plumbing sector

Fiona Hodgson

NEW research has cited ‘sexist and outdated’ stereotypes as the main barrier to women entering the plumbing sector.

39% of respondents gave that answer to a poll from the Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers’ Federation (SNIPEF). 21% of people stated that poor career advice was the biggest obstacle.

The survey also revealed that 28% of people believe there are no barriers to entering the profession, with just 12% citing a lack of respect for women.

Fiona Hodgson, chief executive of SNIPEF, said, “It is unbelievable that in 2023 outdated and sexist stereotypes continue to be made about what women can and cannot do, often reinforced by misguided career advice that the trades are men-only professions.

“Thankfully, SNIPEF is finding a small but growing number of women who are challenging these misconceptions and entering the plumbing industry, finding it an attractive and lucrative career option.

“We need to encourage greater diversity into our industry, helping us address the current skills shortage and meet the demand from 30% of customers who have stated their preference for a women plumber.”

SNIPEF also revealed ahead of International Women’s Day (March 8), Scottish Apprenticeship Week (6-10 March) and World Plumbing Day (11 March) that 2% of its apprentices are now women – an increase of 50% since 2020. Although still small, trends indicate a growing demand from women to train as plumbing professionals.

One of the new cohort is 17-year-old Naomi Watson from Aberdeen, studying at Dundee and Angus College and about to enter the second year of her apprenticeship with SNIPEF member EJ Parker Technical Services.

Naomi said, “I absolutely adore my job, and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. As a commercial plumber, I visit new places with new challenges each month. This week I am heading to Inverness to work on renewable technologies.

“I couldn’t ask for a more supportive team. I love every single one of the boys I work with and get on so well with my journeyman. He has taught me so many things to get me started.

“This job has made me incredibly confident. I feel now that there isn’t anything I can’t achieve if I put my mind to it.”

Dale Thomson, apprentice training manager for SNIPEF, added, “The talent and energy apprentices, such as Naomi, bring to their journey towards the status of a qualified plumber is remarkable. The young women who sign up to learn about plumbing bring a fresh element of enthusiasm, skill and dedication to the profession, and it is good for the industry that we are seeing more and more of them.”

This autumn, SNIPEF will unveil its new Equality, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion action plan, aimed at confronting industry ‘misconceptions’, to encourage more females to consider training as a plumber and setting its ambition to have women making up 10% of all apprentices by the end of the decade.