Personnel e.bulletin – June 2013

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Women represent a slight 3% of the construction industry and an even slimmer 1.5% of the plumbing trades. Yet according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, women currently make up 47% of the total workforce and are projected to account for over 50% of the growth through 2018. Look deeper and the “feminization” of higher education is revealed. Simply put, women outpace men in enrollment and graduation rates. High school graduation rates are also higher for women than men.

The trades industry is experiencing a drastic increase in the number of employees eligible to retire – a trend that will result in the need to find replacement workers for an estimated 40% of North America’s current trades people over the next several years. That’s a compelling case for a “call to action” for attracting, fielding, and retaining women technicians.  Let’s get to work!

We need to start by understanding what is discouraging women from pursuing careers in our industry and take action to clear the air:

Common MythsPlumbing, Heating & Cooling Jobs Are: The Truth
Messages Worth Delivering:

Actions You Must Take:
Not good jobs for women. We can offer women high pay, good benefits, flexibility, variety, rewarding work, and unlimited opportunities. Make sure to close any pay gaps and look for ways to add more flexible work arrangements.
Unattractive to women. Women working in the trades typically report that they feel their work builds self-confidence, is gratifying, that it’s “fun to be at work”, and great to “not to be behind a desk”. Talk to the women on your teams and be open to their suggestions for accelerating the attraction of women.  Some companies offer pink hard hats, trucks and tool-belts – no kidding!

Too physically demanding.
There is a physical component to most trades and there are a diversity of skills required to get the work done.

Pipes are not all made of heavy metal – PVC is very manageable!

Do not assume that women do not have the physical strength to play certain roles.
All brawn and no brains. Technology has changed and continues to rapidly change our industry. We need skilled workers who can operate mechanical equipment and software.


Be an early and often technology adapter. Refrain from thinking of your workforce as “blue collar”.  The white and blue distinction is blurring.  Think “green” instead.
Void of mentors. Our work is built on an apprenticeship model. We mentor constantly and are good at it. Build on your apprenticeship models by offering internships.


Lack growth opportunities. There is so much room for growth and in so many ways in our industry – demand for our craft is out pacing the supply. Design career paths that offer upward and lateral growth opportunities and take time to train.


Now that we have debunked some common myths, here are some recruitment tips:

–  Review all of your recruiting materials and content on your website and make the necessary enhancements to appeal to women including photos of and quotes by women.

– Don’t be shy about developing a separate recruiting campaign targeting women.

– Leverage social media.

– Advertise in places where there is a concentration of women – hospitals, community service centers, day-care providers, etc.

– Establish relationships with people who can help promote your opportunities and refer talent – high school and college counselors.

– Get on the road – make presentations to local high schools, colleges, career fairs, etc.

– Educate parents through PTAs on your emerged and emerging careers.

– Offer open-houses to educate job seekers, and once again, don’t be shy about targeting women.


And if all the reasons cited above aren’t enough to spur you to action, consider that research has already borne out that customers like women plumbers because of perceptions that they:

– Make it more comfortable to have a stranger in their home

– Show up on time

– Execute well

– Advice from a female technician is seen as more trustworthy

By embracing these calls to actions, you open a new avenue to filling your workforce needs, can be seen as a more “progressive” company and differentiate yourself from your competitors. What are you waiting for?


This content was developed for the PHCC Educational Foundation by TPO, Inc. ( Please consult your HR professional or attorney for further advice, as laws may differ in each state. Laws continue to evolve; the information presented is as of June 2013. Any omission or inclusion of incorrect data is unintentional. Please note this article is not intended to provide legal advice or to substitute for supervisor employment law training.


The PHCC Educational Foundation, a partnership of contractors, manufacturers and wholesalers was founded in 1987 to serve the plumbing-heating-cooling industry by preparing contractors and their employees to meet the challenges of a constantly changing marketplace. If you found this article helpful, please consider supporting the Foundation by making a contribution at

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