Think back to your school careers advice sessions. What options were described to you? If you're a girl, there's a good chance you were recommended to enter into a traditional female role such as teaching, healthcare or administration while only the boys were encouraged to consider careers in manual trades such as plumbing. With the media constantly reporting mounting inequality in the corporate world, research by WaterSafe, the UK's leading plumbing assurance scheme reveals that UK homeowners would like to see more women taking up tools and working in trades.
Tellingly, the most recent figures show that women are hugely under represented in the plumbing industry, with females constituting less than 1% of the UK's plumbers and it would appear that this issue begins in the classroom. When asked to recall their careers advice, a third (31%) of women said that only boys were encouraged to take up a trade while a quarter (24%) feel they were coerced into typical female roles. These findings were supported by a separate college study, in which WaterSafe found that nearly a half of all respondents (45%) don't feel that girls and boys are given the same career opportunities and a quarter (36%) feel that boys were pushed into more manual trade roles than them.
Interestingly, despite the strong gender bias evident in the types of careers recommended to school leavers, a third of women said that they would prefer a female plumber to carry out work on their home, with reasons cited including 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 that of a man (10%) and a likelihood that women wouldn't patronise them. However, perhaps the most positive finding from the survey is that four in five (77%) of homeowners surveyed said that the most important consideration when choosing a plumber, regardless of gender, is the skills they have to do a quality job.
For women as well as men, plumbing can be a financially and personally rewarding career choice, making an apprenticeship a viable alternative to university for many school leavers and certainly worthy of consideration. Plumbing is a skilled and future-proof trade which will always be in demand and can be a good option for those looking for a career that they can fit around family life. Over a third of women said that if they had the chance to start out again they'd like to "take up a trade" because it offers a stable career path, so if you're a woman and think you might like to work in plumbing, don't allow traditional stereotypes to hold you back!
Useful plumbing careers advice can be found on the WaterSafe "How to become a plumber" page and on the National Careers Service website.