There’s no arguing that the trades are a male-dominated industry. The first thing you think of when you think ‘tradie’ is a man, and there’s even the term ‘tradie ladies’ to separate women from the group.
Times are changing, with more women entering traditionally male jobs and men entering female-dominated workforces, but we have a long way to go.
Plumbing is one of the many trades that needs more women.
You Should Consider a Career as a Female Plumber
Female plumbers in Australia make up less than 1% of plumbers in the country, one of the lowest percentages for a trade group. Female tradies in total make up about 3% of the industry and when comparing what percentage of plumbers are female, there’s already a drop off from the average.
If there’s so few women in the industry, it might be hard to consider joining it. It’s no secret that women can have a more difficult time on worksites and finding opportunities, but these things are changing as well as industries want to encourage more women to join.
The trades more than ever need more people to choose them for a career. We’re 50% of the population, so it just makes sense to encourage more women into the industries. That’s all well and good, but at the end of the day it’s your career and you want to make the right choice and hopefully love every day you're at work (or most of them at least).
First things first, you can do it. With the right attitude, training and hard work, anyone can become a plumber, male or female. It is a job where you get your hands dirty, but it’s also a role where you can do all kinds of technical work. You don’t need to have brute strength to become a plumber, just a willingness to learn and get in there.
Women in the industry do talk about how it was strange being the only female in their trade class or the only woman on a worksite, but once they showed that they were there to do their best and do good work, they became part of the team just like the rest of the guys.
It’s going to take more than that to decide on a possible career, so we’re going to cover more reasons why plumbing could be the right fit for you. There are higher barriers for women, but we hope this article can show why anyone can become a female plumber if they want to and help shift the industry.
Being a Female Plumber means job security
It’s hard not to think back to COVID, when businesses could no longer keep the lights on and hundreds of thousands of people across the country lost their jobs. Trades experienced this squeeze like all industries, but the ones that felt it least were those in essential work. Plumbing was one of those industries where the work never dried up.
With a career in the trade, female plumbers can have the kind of job security it’s hard to find with other jobs. Wherever you go, if people live there, they’ll need a plumber. Every new construction needs plumbers, every business needs plumbers. It’s a lot of work and training, but that just means that you’ll have skills that are always in demand.
Let's cover a few of the assured pathways you can take to create job security for yourself, even as you train.
You don’t always get paid to learn, but with the trades you do. Apprenticeships combine necessary training any role needs with on-the-job experience and learning. It’s hard work and like other training roles, it isn’t paid like a full employee. But, your apprenticeship can secure future employment with your trainer, or get you started with professional experience to hit the ground running.
As a high school student, you’re offered so many paths to take, without knowing if you can get a stable job and career out of many of them. The students that were said to be ‘set’ for life were the ones lining up apprenticeships out of high school. While many of us were stressing over what careers we wanted or forking out for uni, the students that picked the trades were already set up with jobs, businesses, and stable incomes.
It’s the kind of job security that can set you up for life, without being stuck in the one place. Which brings us to our next point.
Plumbing isn’t just fixing leaks and unclogging drains, even if that’s why a lot of people will hire a plumber. Emergency plumbing is just one way to go in a huge industry that offers many opportunities to learn and hone your expertise as a female plumber.
Plumbing can cover lots of essential things that people don’t even think about until something goes wrong. This includes fire protection, sanitation, drainage, roofing and more. The skills you learn from the start will open up all sorts of paths you can take and more opportunities to specialise.
There’s new technology now that only means the industry will grow wider. Smart homes and digital plumbing needs are expected to skyrocket in demand in the coming years. The includes the demand for male and female plumbers that can install and maintain technology as it changes and evolves. Plumbing is a role where you’ll always be getting better and becoming an expert in what you do.
The flexibility and range of skills the industry can offer a female plumber means you always have the option of where you take your career while keeping the security of an in-demand service.
And if you want to take that even further?
Owning a Plumbing Business
In Australia, there’s no large monopoly of plumbing companies. The largest four don’t even make up 10% of the market, which is great news for anyone wanting to get their own foothold in the industry. If you want to start your own business, plumbing is a great industry to do it in.
Most plumbing businesses in Australia are small businesses, averaging about 3 plumbers per team. As a female plumber, you could be on your way to starting your own business and running it your way. It would have the same challenges as any new business getting off the ground, but you’d be in an industry that is known for small business.
AroFlo has a guide about getting your trade business started, which is a good read if you’re curious about how you could have your own small business in the future or what plumbing can lead to. In AroFlo’s article about plumbing marketing you can see some of the work that goes into growing your business and building a loyal customer base.
With enough time and expertise, you can have your own business as a female plumber and reap the rewards of your hard work.
Mentoring and Support for Female Plumbers
At this point you might be considering a role as a female plumber and wondering where to start, what you need to consider and what support is out there.
The Australian plumbing industry has recognised the need for more female plumbers, just as the rest of the world has. This means more effort by the industry to inform women about why plumbing is a great career path and actually supporting female plumbers as they learn and work.
We’re going to cover a few systems of support aimed at helping any female plumbers and students considering the trades.
Workplace Safety as a Female Plumber
Workplace harassment and abuse are unfortunately realities that all workers might experience. As a female plumber, you’d also be more likely than your male counterparts to experience this.
This is a safety issue that falls under OH&S that businesses are required to follow. It’s not to say that it won’t happen, and it is hard to feel protected by a policy on a piece of paper, but things are improving. Businesses are being held liable for workplace harassment and bullying, those that don’t fulfill their obligations to protect their workers are being liable for it.
For female plumbers, the industry wants to be a place where anyone can train and become part of it. In Victoria, all plumbers are required to be licensed and registered with the Victorian Building Authority. The VBA regulates the industry which means all plumbers, including trainers and supervisors, are held to high standards of workplace safety and accountability.
It’s a small step, but it’s good to know there are legal protections for female plumbers should the need be there. But what about general support and getting into the industry itself? What about other women in the industry?
That brings us to Women In Plumbing.
Women In Plumbing
Master Plumbers and Plumbing Apprentices Victoria have set up the Women in Plumbing initiative to encourage more women into considering the industry. This initiative aims to make plumbing an option for female students, by reaching out to schools, teachers and employers so that they can get the important info to women considering a tradie career. They support female plumbers every step of the way, from first becoming a student, to securing apprenticeships, to networking with fellow female plumbers and tradie ladies and supporting each other in the industry.
Women in Plumbing isn’t just focused on pathways for those in high school, but for any woman looking to make a change in her career or try something new. It’s never too late to consider a career change, especially if you feel your current role doesn’t fit. Some female plumbers in the program used to work in nursing and hospitality and thanks to the support were able to find a career that they hadn’t considered before.
Head over to their website and see for yourself how the program can help you.
Rheem Apprentice Awards
These are industry awards given out by Rheem for deserving apprentices in the industry and that includes female plumbers. Rheem awards grants to apprentices to help pay for Tafe fees, textbooks and tools to give them a kickstart to their career.
Rheem has also posted articles about female plumbers making a name for themselves in the industry and showing everyone that plumbing is for anyone willing to put in the work.
Now it's time to be the change
It sounds like a corny line from a government ad, but it’s true. It can be difficult for a woman to see herself as a plumber when overwhelmingly every plumber and tradie she’s met has been male. It can be very difficult for young women to even consider it when most of their classmates applying for apprenticeships are men.
Why pick an industry that overwhelmingly men, where in Victoria alone there are just over 100 registered female plumbers in a pool of 30,000 people? It’s a huge gap, what can a few female plumbers do?
Even one can make a difference and push real change, just by studying, going through an apprenticeship and working in the industry.
An example we like is Australia finally setting up the AFLW after years of discussion, having national teams and a season that is broadcast on television. The female players were already there and playing footy, they just weren’t given the same opportunities as the men. Now, having the AFLW means that a new generation of girls have something to aspire to. Before the AFLW became its own thing, women could only go so far in the sport before they hit the limit of what they could achieve. That alone can discourage someone from trying in the first place.
A lot of the women in articles about female plumbers and working in the industry were inspired by family around them, and other female plumbers that they know or have met. Women encouraged other women, even if they didn’t realise it.
It’s not a stretch to say that female plumbers today will inspire the female plumbers of tomorrow. If you decide on a career in plumbing, you could be that inspiration one day.
It's a growing industry after all
Plumbing is only going to expand as the population grows, more buildings are built and the country gets bigger. We hope that this article has given you some good info on why you should consider becoming a female plumber and how the trades are changing and growing.
If you’re already on your way to becoming a plumber or want more insight into building a solid plumbing business, we have a guide on setting up your own plumbing business and what it takes to become the boss. There’s even more information there about why plumbing might be the trade for you and how you can make your business stand out.
The industry is changing, and we hope to see more tradie ladies in the future!