36-year-old Erin Swetland is a female plumber and she couldn’t be happier. And not only is she sharing her story, but she’s opening up about all little-known about benefits for females in the industry.
Swetland knows he career choice is well, unusual.
“In those stupid career fairs, nobody ever suggested to the little girls, “Get into a trade, you’ll make a shit ton of money, and you can have a lifelong career.”
Which is so true! How often has anyone suggested to women that they should take up plumbing or become an electrician or a handywoman?
Of course, Erin didn’t originally set out to become a plumber. She originally got a fine arts degree in painting, but when she discovered it just wasn’t for her, she set off in another direction.
“I started out installing toilets and now I help build hospitals and stadiums, so these days I deal with fewer actual turds than one might think. But oh gosh do I have stories from my days of domestic plumbing …”
After some time in the industry, she wound up installing storm-ready pipes that weighed up to one ton.
“At first there were days where I was worried I couldn’t handle it. Some of the pipe was extremely heavy. Luckily I am quite strong, but things would happen. We would be unloading a truck of 20-foot long pieces of six-inch plastic pipe, which are hard to wield. I go up to take a pipe, and my foreman is like “Don’t overexert yourself!” And I’m like, “I want to be part of the team … Just let me take this stupid piece of pipe and if I fail, just let me fail.” In a way, it was nice to hear concern, but on the other hand, I don’t want to feel like men are treating me differently.”
“At first I was exhausted. Sometimes I would come home and cry. What made it tolerable was that the people I worked with were so great and competent. Going in, I’d heard things like, “All you’re going to do is drill holes and they don’t want women around,” but generally speaking they really wanted to teach me.”
Now that she’s a pro, she has nothing but good things to say about her chosen career field. Her coworkers are generally friendly and helpful and she feels fulfilled. And because her work requires a lot of trust between crew members, there’s a lot of team bonding and she’s made great friends.
Hmm…perhaps it’s time for a career change?