A Plumbing Technician is a varied job that involves simple repairs such as changing a tap washer, toilet flush valves to more complicated tasks like fitting new radiators or full bathroom installations.

Traditionally seen as a men’s work, Marie Ireland, a Together Housing Group Plumbing Technician, has made a career working in an area she feels passionate about and is one of a number of women doing what they love, regardless of typical gender roles. At the same time as doing her job, she is also #BreakingTheBias and helping to create a world that is diverse and inclusive.

Equality and Diversity is at the heart of Together Housing. Our approach is based on the FREDIE principles (Fairness, Respect, Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Engagement) and the group offers a range of inclusive opportunities to staff.

Marie Ireland has been a Plumbing Technician for ten years, but Initially, she struggled to get an apprenticeship. Marie sent out countless letters and emails seeking a route into plumbing but to no avail. As a female no one took her seriously, however, her self-belief and passion didn’t let her dedication wane. Instead, she took a different route into employment and enrolled on a full-time course at Burnley College.

Eventually through this course she managed to get an internship working for four weeks. Although it didn’t cost the company anything Marie had to give up her part time job as a Customer Service Officer and hoped her internship would lead to permanent employment. At the end she was offered an apprenticeship which she took and has never looked back!

Through her four-year apprenticeship she gained a Level 3 qualification in Plumbing along with a Gas Safe Qualification.  After this she worked on a self-employed basis, and joined Together Housing almost four years ago.

Now, you might find her tiling a kitchen in the morning or fixing a bathroom in the afternoon. One of her jobs involves capping the gas meter when a tenant moves out and then uncapping it when a new tenant moves in, and another is to test boilers.

Below Marie talks about being a woman in this line of work and how she has found it:

Why did you decide to become a plumber?

I remember my uncle fitting our central heating when I was little. I found it fascinating when he had all the floors up running pipe work to the new boiler and soldering fittings. I just thought to myself ‘I could do that’ and it stuck. I like figuring out how things work.

Would you recommend this job to other people, especially women?

Absolutely. If I can do it, anyone can. It can be a physically demanding job sometimes but there’s always someone who will help with lifting and moving things when needed. I think that some female tenants feel better having a woman working in their home rather than a man. Some women have a better eye for detail too.

What kind of reactions do you usually get in your line of work?

I still get the usual ‘I didn’t expect a woman to be coming’ but a lot of people say how refreshing it is. I usually tell them that there’s now more female plumbers and gas engineers than they think.

What do you like and dislike about your line of work?

I love standing back and looking at a bathroom I’ve fitted and tiled myself, I get a real sense of achievement. I don’t dislike anything!

If you didn’t do this job then what would you be doing?

I’m not sure what I would be doing if I didn’t do this, I love it and can’t imagine doing anything else. But if I had to choose something else, I would maybe work with animals.

What do you see yourself doing in the long term?

I really like the team I’m on and the work I’m doing but I would like to possibly do a management course and maybe progress to a Repair Team Coordinator role.