Mum-of-one Carly Gayle, 30, has been working as a plumber since she was 15 and reveals what it’s really like as shocked customers often ask her ‘Where’s the man?’ when she turns up for jobs.
Carly’s career started by helping out with her dad’s business at weekends.
The mother makes an incredible £36,000 a year from her successful plumbing business but with that comes sexism.
Carly reveals that some customers doubt her abilities in the field, even though she says her services are in high demand especially from other women and older or vulnerable customers.
Carly, who was one of just two girls in a trade college with 200 boys, said:
“I once had a woman tell me ‘You look like a model – I can’t believe you’re a plumber’.
“When I was an apprentice 13 years ago, there were almost no women around in plumbing and I have had a lot of comments over the years.
“People have said ‘Where’s the man?’ when I’ve turned up at jobs before, and I’ve also had people not believe I’m qualified or actually able to do the job.
“There’s been other times I’ve been in B&Q in my normal clothes with my handbag, looking at tools – knowing exactly what I’m looking for – and have had groups of lads come up to me and say ‘Don’t hurt yourself darling’.
“I just flash them my Gas Safe register card, and they soon shut up.
“The comments used to get to me but they’re only served to make me really thick skinned, it’s definitely made me more feisty.”
Being a plumber is hard work, it involves intensive labour all part of the job and Carly thanks her hands-on role for helping her maintain her fitness and physique.
“It’s a very dirty job, I come home with wood shavings in my bra and knickers, when you’re drilling through wood it gets absolutely everywhere.
“I love having my nails done like every other girl but I can’t have them on when I’m working because I can’t pick screws up or any other fiddly bits.
“So when I’m desperate to have them for a holiday or other occasion I have to duct tape them up.”
Carly says nothing could put her off the trade she loves as the career actually introduced her to her factory worker husband, Danny, 31, who is also father to her three-year-old son, Marcus.
“When we met Danny thought it was brilliant that I was training to become a plumber, he loved it.
“Of course he made the joke ‘I wouldn’t mind you coming to take a look at my pipes’.
“I used to do a lot of the practical jobs around the house but since we have been married he likes to do a lot more of that kind of stuff – so I taught him how do to it.”
“Now his friends ring him up asking how to bleed a radiator, because they know I’ve shown him how.”
Andrew, Carly’s dad, 56, taught Carly everything she needed to know to become a plumber.
“I used to work with him on weekends from the age of 15, just giving him a hand with stuff.
“He taught me how to solder pipes and all the other basics. He was always doing things and showing me how you did it.
“I wanted him to give me an apprenticeship but he wouldn’t. He didn’t really want me to go into the same industry as him because he knows it’s a hard life, it’s hard work, it’s a lot of responsibility and he knew I would get a lot of stick.”
Carly believes the attitudes towards women in trade are thankfully getting much better these days.
In saying that though, she believes there is still a long way to go in terms of gender equality.
“It used to be a lot worse than it is now but it’s still a long way off women being equal and there’s no platform for women to get into the construction industry.
“For me it was through my dad and that’s the same for a lot of women, they have just been lucky enough to have someone to support them with it, but there’s nothing really to encourage women to think that they can do anything like this.
“We have a lot of customers now that we have seen for years, they all know me really well and know how capable I am.
“A lot of my customers really like the fact I’m a woman too, especially other women and older people that are on their own.
“I’m so grateful that I got into a trade because I have so much knowledge and I have earned good money, probably more than most women my age.”