NewsNationalTwo Americas


Metro Detroit women plumbers are changing the gender norm in the industry

Two Americas
Posted at 5:54 PM, Apr 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-20 21:57:57-04

WYANDOTTE, Mich. (WXYZ) — They dig, they drill and they’re not afraid to get dirty.

"We’re girls, we bring a water heater in and out, and we do it in 45 minutes."

This is the plumbing power team cutting right through gender norms the women behind always available plumbing that are ironically always booked.

"All of the drains were taken out, all new water pipes, upstairs brand-new bathtub, brand new everything,” said Tracey Yarbrough, Master Plumber at Always Available Plumbing.

WXYZ’s Ameera David asked, “So this is a big job?”

“This is a big job,” replied Yarbrough.

As you’d imagine, not a job many women hold. At just 1.9%, Plumbers, Steamers, & Pipefitters account for the smallest share of women workers across the country.

This group certainly stands out in their profession, but these ladies don’t skip a beat.

Together, these ladies have defied the stereotype and as it turns out, have also defied the odds.

“I had no skills, no education and the reason I was stuck in a job going nowhere is because I was an alcoholic and an addict from a young teen,” said Yarbrough.

But life changed for Tracey Yarbrough 20 years ago when she grew enough courage to ask her boyfriend plumber, now husband, if she could learn the ropes.

“I said James, I can do this job if you just give me the chance” recalled Yarbrough.

She could do it, and well, soon rising to become a Master Plumber. And she’d make it a goal to show other women going through similarly hard times that they could do it too, first roping in her daughter, Jennifer then, Stephanie

“They’re like I don’t think I can do that, I’m like yeah you can! Come on let’s go,” said Yarbrough.

“When I started doing plumbing, I didn’t know how to shut off water in someone’s house,” said Kyra Baugher, Apprentice Plumber at Always Available Plumbing.

Today, there’s nothing these women can’t do but convincing men of that has been a challenge from flat-out discrimination.

“He refused to pay me what I wanted because I was a girl,” said Yarbrough describing a client.

“Is there anyone else with you, a guy to help, and I'm like no it’s just me,” said Stephanie Collins, Journeymen Plumber.

“They will question me, and I have to start communicating with them so that they can hear I know what I’m talking about,” said Baugher.

But in reality, it’s their hands that do all the talking.

“You can tell you do work, look at your hands,” said David.

“I never get all the black off my hands, always in the creases,” said Jennifer Wilkie, Apprentice Plumber at Always Available Plumbing.

For these women, it is a marker of pride because it is a reminder of what they can provide.

“I was able to fix someone's plumbing,” said Wilkie. “But then you know, bring money into my household for my family.”

“When we walk in, and women are there to do the work,” said Collins. “The women are always ecstatic.”

Reminding little girls that it's time to dream a little bigger.

“If this is what you want to do, go for it. And never listen to a woman shouldn't be in this trade, a woman shouldn't do that,” said Wilkie.

Armed with the right tools and the right boots, any woman, they say, can prove that mastering the pipes doesn’t have to be a pipe dream.

Always Available Plumbing