In the 1970s, Debbie Johnston was working in the office of her dad’s plumbing business when a government official came in and asked if anyone wanted to become a plumbing apprentice. She signed up and later became Ontario’s first licensed female plumber. Now retired, she looks back on her career and hopes more women will think about working in skilled trades like plumbing.
Even though she was the only woman in her classes at Fanshawe College, Johnston was treated respectfully by her peers. She received similar support from the community as well.
When it comes to supporting women in the trades, Johnston suggests that we start encouraging girls to learn about the skilled trades while they’re still in high school. This way, they can realize that these kinds of jobs are open to them. She believes that girls can excel in any trade job, including plumbing.
“There is absolutely nothing out there in any kind of trade — not just plumbing — that girls can’t do,” said Johnston.
Even though Debbie Johnston had a good experience, women often have a hard time at work in the field of skilled trades. Because of various concerns, like getting paid maternity leave, a lot of women give up their jobs, even if they were initially courageous enough to join.
Johnston offers her own guidance for women who want to join this field: “Do your work, Do it as well as you can. Keep going, and try your best.”
Click here to learn more: ‘Nothing girls can’t do:’ Ontario’s 1st female licensed plumber marks 50 years in the trade | CBC News