Plumbing is a Women's Job

Barriers are only obstacles if you don’t find a way around them. Master Plumber Sue Jacobs shares her story of how she does that every day. 

A one-woman company, S. Jacobs Plumbing serves the needs of residential, commercial and industrial customers in Norwood, Massachusetts.

Owner Sue Jacobs worked for her father’s plumbing business while attending high school, and at the same time earning both her Journeyman and Master License in night school. Now, with more than 30 years of experience, she is the only woman in a fifth generation family of Master Plumbers since 1895.

“I have experience with plumbing, heating, gasfitting, accounts receivable and payable, and marketing. I opened my own business in 2015 and enjoy every day of work,” Jacobs says.

Her journey into the world of plumbing wasn’t without challenges. “My father did not think that women could do plumbing,” Jacobs recalls. “I do have limitations as far as lifting heavy objects, but I always figure a way to get the job done.”

Jacobs didn’t let naysayers stand in her way. “I really didn’t even think about it,” she says. “I went back into plumbing in my 20’s and it was just a natural instinctive decision. I love plumbing. Period.”

Jacobs is a member of both PHCC of Massachusetts and PHCC National. When she’s not taking on 5-10 daily scheduled plumbing and heating service jobs, she fundraises for Norwood Food Pantry, Norwood Football and Norwood NPA-TV.

She, and two other women plumbers from the Boston area, recently took on a new endeavor called “Ms. Fix It” Workshops. With the backing of PHCC National and PHCC of MA, the goal of the workshops is to educate young girls and boys about the industry and hopefully fill in the skilled worker gap.

“There is a seat for everyone,” Jacobs says. “Men, women, people of each nationality, sexual orientation, religion, etc., if you are a little mechanically inclined, have the ability to follow directions and are hungry to learn, a trade may be a great opportunity.”

Jacobs approached the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts a little over a year ago, and found that they were very receptive to her workshop ideas. “They don’t offer a Plumbing Badge, but do have a Woodworker Badge, so that is what we have been teaching girls, 8-18 years old. We are working on getting plumbing as an offered badge with Girls Scouts nationally.” Jacobs and the other two women plumbers also are planning on offering workshops to recreation departments, real estate brokers and other organizations.

“There has been a tremendous interest from various organizations, but we are in the start-up process and plan to start offering a Plumbing 101 Workshop by summer this year,” Jacobs says.

The three women are working with PHCC of MA to help open the trades to women. “We offer to each Girl Scout a ‘Take Home Gift Bag,’ which includes: Woodworking and Plumbing Helpful Hints Handouts, PHCC Coloring Books, Plumbing Word Search, carpenters pencils, note pads, erasers, etc. We would like to partner up with national companies that could supply us with these items (with their logo, of course),” Jacobs says.

We are now seeing a shortage of tradespeople across the country. The average age of licensed plumbers nationally is between 55-57. Twenty-five percent of licensed plumbers retired in 2016 with less than that amount signed up to become an apprentice. “I feel it is my obligation to introduce girls and boys to the opportunity to learn a trade, assist customers, work honest and hard and perform quality workmanship for a reasonable price, which equals to a reasonable wage and a good living,” Jacobs says.

When asked what advice she would give to other women who want to pursue a career in plumbing, Jacobs proudly says, “Don’t underestimate your capability. Stick to it! You can do it, even if you think you can’t. You might not have the muscle strength but your brain is your strongest muscle and everything is possible. There is ALWAYS a way of doing the job at hand.

We couldn’t agree more.

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