In this #AskAnExpert series we’ll be speaking to some of the top professionals across different industries about how they got to where they are today. We’ll be uncovering how YOU can replicate their journeys and become your own success story.
Plumbing may not be the most glamorous of jobs, but it pays really well, has flexible working hours AND you get loads of holiday. Should you consider becoming a plumber? We’ve asked an expert.
But is plumbing really a career for women? For every 100 male plumbers there are 0.4 women plumbers, less than half a person. Here female plumber Hattie Hasan, the founder of Stopcocks Women Plumbers and the author of The Joy of Plumbing – a guide to living the life you really REALLY want, tells us how she got into the industry and why being a woman has changed things for her.
Talk me through your career journey. How did you get into plumbing?
I started out pretty traditionally as a nursery and infant school teacher. I’ve always been handy and have even been commissioned by friends and family to do their DIY, so a career in the trades called to me and I trained as a plumber.
In spite of sending my CV to every plumbing company in Leeds, I was unable to get a job, so I had no choice but to work for myself. Sadly, that situation has hardly changed today for women, 25 years later. My own business went from strength to strength. Customers seem to love the idea of a nurturing, caring skilled tradeswoman. They expect a woman to take a lot of care of their homes and have good attention to detail. This has meant, although at first I used to sit staring at the phone, worried it wouldn’t ring, it always did.
How many female plumbers are there in the country?
There are no accurate figures, but it’s estimated that for every 100 male plumbers there is slightly less than half a woman at about 0.4%. I went online early for a plumber and as soon as I did I started to be contacted by other women who wanted to become plumbers but who, like me, received no encouragement from the industry. I started my company Stopcocks Women Plumbers because I knew that customers loved women plumbers and I also knew women were struggling to become plumbers. I also knew that those of us who had succeeded were very isolated.
I started a newsletter to bring women plumbers together, knowing that a community would make it easier for trainee women to get qualified and started. Soon, it became clear to me that those who were most looking for help were women, who, like me, had been unable to get jobs or placements but who wanted to properly qualify so that they too could plumb, and women trying to find their way through the training maze.
What are the perks of plumbing as a career?
I work around three days a week and I live in a beautiful part of the country on the edge of the moors in West Yorkshire. The best perk is that I get to go on holiday whenever I want.
What kind of women want to go into plumbing?
It’s predominantly women over 25 who realise they’re not getting the job satisfaction they desire. They want to retrain as plumbers and in other trades. They experience the double whammy of not being able to get funding to train (full for 16-18 year olds, half for 19-24’s but none for the vast majority of trainees older than that) and being perceived as too independent minded or too likely to leave to have a family to get a placement or a job.
Sadly, the attitudes within the plumbing trade are old fashioned, to say the least. We get hate mail from some of our male colleagues, telling us that women aren’t capable of doing this work. It’d be funny if it wasn’t so sad.
We get on average two unsolicited emails a week from women and girls attempting to gain entry into the industry. Some of these women are actually hounded out by their work because they are sabotaged and constantly harassed. Plumbing isn’t for everyone and you have to be tough.
Tell us about your company and your advice for women wanting to go in to plumbing
My company Stopcocks Women Plumbers is now a national company and we offer women support to set themselves up as self-employed tradeswomen. We provide mentoring too and my advice to women and girls wanting to become plumbers or to work in any trade is not to be discouraged. Start training as young as you can because that’s where the funding is, and don’t be isolated, join us!