Customer Stories

Heather's Commitment to Innovating the Plumbing Industry

by Kelly Barnett | Sep 05, 2019

Movements to promote gender equality are on the rise. Today more than ever, women pursue career paths that have previously been considered a man's land. But even in 2019, not many women dream of being a plumber. Heather Clark is one of those who did, and she's made a career out of it.

Graduating Heanor Gate Science College with a distinction in construction at 16 years old, Heather started her career with a four-year apprenticeship before starting her own company, Clark Gas Ltd. Fast forward to 2019, and Heather is a leading voice for the plumbing industry. She met the team of Wavin, part of Orbia's Building & Infrastructure group, when she participated in a state of the nation roundtable that the company organized.

Heather is enthusiastic about embracing new technologies such as those that allow customers to control their heating from their phone. In Heather’s experience, younger customers are very enthusiastic about app-based controls, which allow them to do things like turn the heating on when they are out of the house. However, older customers can be intimidated by this kind of change and struggle with it, so they end up reverting back to an old mechanical programmer.

One impact of climate change that affects plumbers is the increasingly warmer weather. For the industry that means less boiler breakdowns. For plumbers, that means less business. When Heather realized that the demand for boiler repairs was declining, she decided to change her focus. She trained in renewables, after meeting a colleague who sparked her interest, and today she dedicates a lot of her efforts to installing heat pumps, solar panels, and more. Focusing on renewables gives her an opportunity to combine her business success with being mindful of the environment.

"I was once outside my van on a job when a woman stopped me and asked what I was doing. I explained that I was a plumber. She responded: 'That's fantastic! I'm going to put this in my diary—today I met a female plumber!' "

- Heather Clark

Many Customers Prefer Female Plumbers

Heather has faced difficulties being a woman in what is a traditionally male world. In the United States, 1.4% of plumbers are women (US Bureau of Labor). In the UK it is less than 1% (Office of National Statistics). 

Research by the UK’s WaterSafe organisation showed that almost one third of female customers would prefer a woman plumber. Heather believes that other than product knowledge and skills to do the job, the most important thing you need in this job is patience, so women make great plumbers. With rapid urbanization and the increasing demand for housing, Heather thinks that there is a great future ahead for the industry, particularly for those like Heather who understand the value of technology and renewables.

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