Legal profession 'is more sexist than plumbing', say two women who gave up career in the law to set up business as plumbers
13:30 GMT, 9 March 2012
Two women who gave up successful
legal careers to become plumbers have revealed they experienced more
sexism in the law than they ever have in their new profession.
Janet Wood and Deborah Yates, who
were both practising solicitors, met while working on regulatory legal
work for the General Medical Council.
But they have now swapped their suits for overalls and earned themselves plumbing qualifications.
And despite finding themselves in a
predominantly male trade, they have been accepted by their peers far
more readily than they were when beginning their legal careers.
Plumbing new depths: Former solicitors Janet Wood, left, and Deborah Yates, right, left the legal profession to set up their own plumbing business
Janet, 45, who lives in Worsley,
Greater Manchester, with her barrister husband Jason MacAdam, 47, said:
'When I started out in Nottingham and then in Hull, it was rare for a
female solicitor to practise general crime.
'It was a very sexist environment. I
would get people assuming I was the secretary in the office or when I
went down to the cells to see clients they would ask '”when is the
solicitor coming” – and police officers were also like that.
'That world has changed immensely now
and it's full of women – now I'm in a trade where I don't see any other
female plumbers apart from Deborah.
The pair set up their own business
All Sisterns Go, and after 12 months in the trade the pair are enjoying a
growing customer base.
Mrs Wood added: 'When we first went
into the plumbers yard and asked at the counter for Yorkshire copper
fittings they asked us “is it for your boys” – but it's not happened
since, so we definitely don't get any sexism as plumbers.
'The vast majority of plumbers
merchants we go into are very helpful towards us – that could be just
our perception and they are just as helpful to everyone else.
Courting controversy: Janet and Deborah condemned the legal profession as 'sexist'
'We must admit we were expecting sexism, but the fact is we haven't found it and, if anything, people go the other way.
'The only thing we did find is that it was a struggle to get any work experience.
'We wanted to go and watch the experts, but people were reluctant to have us and we think it may be because they thought we might end up as the competition.'
A friend of theirs suggested trying Blackburne House in Liverpool, where women are trained in a variety of trades, including nursing and hairdressing – and plumbing.
Mrs Wood added: 'Our friend had left her legal firm to work as a female plasterer and she had spoken to Blackburne House in the past and they helped us to get work experience.
'My husband Jason thinks it's great and from his family background he
understands about being self-employed.
'My parents are teachers and it's pretty unconventional from their point
of view. But I have experience running a business from when I was partner in a law firm.
'But as law changed we ended up tied to desks and found it pretty dull. I
had never done anything but law for 20 years and it was getting stale – it's
never dull for us as plumbers.
“I've often gone straight to court from police stations in the morning, so
the hours as plumbers are no hardship at all.
Deborah and myself were never clock watchers and are both conscientious. We'd be in the office between 7.30 to 8am, so plumbing is no different there.
'Two heads are better than one, so we always work together and that's good for security also as we never know whose house we are going into.
'Our workmates were stunned when we mentioned what we were doing – there was shocked silence.
'But when they realised it was what we both wanted to do they said that it
was inspiring that we were going for it.
'We had worked together for so many years in law there was no hesitation
in joining in this adventure and building a business together.
'We both knew that the same things were important to us, achieving a high
standard of work, providing a quality service and an overall professional
approach to clients.
'There is real satisfaction in doing something for someone else especially when you can see the fruits of your labour immediately'
'We understand how important trustworthiness is to clients when they let
strangers into their houses.
They need to know that not only will the job be completed to a high standard but also that their property will be left clean and tidy, they will not be overcharged and they are safe.'
And after a basic training course with OLCI – the UK's number one
construction training provider – the pair set up their business
Deborah, 44, who spent 15 years as a qualified lawyer, lives in Liverpool and as the support of her solicitor boyfriend Peter Jackson, 50.
Smiling Deborah said: 'He knew that I wasn't happy doing what I was doing.
He is pleased that I have found something I enjoy. He says he has noticed
'It's been a new challenge and it's been enjoyable starting all over
again and learning new skills.
'Though it's not the first time I've done it as I started out my working
life as a nurse at Manchester Royal Infirmary, so plumbing is my third
'My mother Audrey is 75 and a retired town hall clerk and she's now wondering if I am ever going to settle down in a job.
'My mother's liked all my jobs for different reasons – now I can fix taps and
we've done her bathroom for her. She liked me being a nurse as that was a caring profession and being a lawyer was also useful.
'I was 18 when I started my nursing, but I carried on doing my nursing
while I was studying for my law degree.
'I did nursing for about ten years and did the odd shifts even when I had
qualified as a lawyer.
'I realise we have started a business at the worse time of all, but we are
making sure that we are keeping very focused on the plan for the future.
'There is real satisfaction in doing something for someone else especially
when you can see the fruits of your labour immediately.
'We will be moving into solar panels, underground heating and harvesting
rainwater as well as all the traditional plumbing maintenance jobs.
'We hope to do further training this year to become Gas Safety
registered – formerly Corgi registered – which will enable us to install boilers and central heating.
'Now it's a case of being your own boss and we're thriving on that.
'There are a lot of things that I have not liked about previous places I
have worked and one of the constant ones was how you get managed.
'I am managing myself now and I've got absolutely no complaints.'