You’ve likely seen a few of GE’s popular TV commercials about Owen, the young, bespectacled man who announces to friends and family that he’s landed a developer job at GE. Comedic misunderstanding ensues.
Owen’s father wants to bequeath Owen his grandfather’s sledgehammer in honor of his blue-collar pursuit, and his downcast friends can’t be convinced that Owen hasn’t given up his digital dreams by taking a job with the industrial giant.
The entire premise is based on the misperception that GE is only a manufacturer, rather than a leader in the development of digital technologies.
So, too, does the perception of the plumbing industry diverge from its reality today, and in so doing, perhaps deter women from seeking out the abundant opportunities that are waiting for them here.
Not your father’s plumbing market
There’s often a misunderstanding of what getting into the plumbing market means. Far more than just selling faucets or churning out the same old equipment day after day, today’s plumbing manufacturers are part of a dynamic industry that addresses everything from sustainability and LEED certification programs to smart technologies and multi-function design.
It’s a vibrant community of engineers, designers, sales personnel and more, each working to find a solution to a problem.
Despite the changes in the industry, women remain underrepresented in the plumbing field. The disparity may have begun in a bygone era of sexist assumptions and opportunities, but today’s leaders are eager to welcome women into the field.
Correcting the imbalance will require some change on the part of both employers and job seekers.
Employers: Change what you’re saying
Plumbing is a critical industry that plays a role in everything from health standards to environmental conservation.
Those in the plumbing field ensure access to safe, clean water for millions through research, design and innovation. It’s a solution-based, technology-driven market where innovative and creative thinking are necessary to solve real problems.
In order to convey that message to would-be workers, employers should reconsider how they’re presenting opportunities to women – and to a younger generation altogether. Acknowledge the perceptions that may be tied to the word “plumbing” and tailor your message to battle them.
“Dress up” your job listings with the bigger picture of what plumbing can be. It’s dynamic. It’s challenging. It’s changing. And it’s important. Make sure your would-be workforce knows that. Pull back the curtain on what is truly an exciting and engaging market to make yourself more likely to attract a diverse population of talented people.
Job seekers: Change what you’re assuming
Can’t help but yawn at the thought of pipes and faucets? You might not be alone, but you should wash those old impressions down the drain. Plumbing is far more dynamic than you might perceive.
If you take away the word “plumbing,” and whatever subconscious weight it carries, the industry you’re left with is one of invention, innovation, collaboration and problem-solving.
Want to save the world? Plumbing helps with that by creating ways to save precious natural resources. In the last few decades alone, advances in plumbing have saved billions of gallons of water by changing the way it’s used in bathrooms, kitchens and lawns.
Want to solve intricate problems? We’re working out how to manage things like temperature control, water flow and more. Regularly changing standards and advancing technology mean the plumbing industry stays at the forefront of innovation.
Want to help care for other people? We’ve got you there, too. We’re protecting people here at home and in developing nations with products and processes to ensure everyone has clean water. The necessary technology to make water safe and accessible starts in the plumbing industry.
Want to build a strong and successful career? Bingo. Despite being an old field, plumbing remains a growing one – and one that abounds with opportunity for those who are willing to seek it.
Career growth and advancement for women in the plumbing industry requires only one thing: a desire to pursue it. So shake off those old assumptions and find out what plumbing has to offer.
Eva-Marie Fox is vice president of marketing at T&S Brass and Bronze Works, a plumbing equipment manufacturer based in South Carolina. As an executive at the family-owned T&S Brass, she has played an active role with the company as it has grown from a domestically known manufacturer to a global entity in the plumbing and foodservice equipment supply market. T&S is the recipient of several prestigious awards, most recently the 2016 Silver Crescent Award for Manufacturing Excellence in South Carolina, the 2015 Manufacturer of the Year from the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce and the Workforce Development Award from Greenville Tech Foundation. Eva is active in organizations connected to the manufacturing industry and her local community.