Published On: Thursday, 09 August 2018
Westcom Plumbing Owner Nets Provincial Construction Award
VICTORIA - Westcom Plumbing and Gas owner/operator Mary-Anne Bowcott is paving the way for women in construction.
This past April, Bowcott was one of six individuals awarded the prestigious BC Construction Association’s Provincial Construction Leadership Award, which recognized her for her company’s work in employing and supporting female construction workers.
Bowcott started Westcom Plumbing and Gas in 2015 after years of working in the trades. Westcom provides a variety of services including plumbing, gas, fireplaces, repair, and installations.
“When I was younger, I originally wanted to be a doctor, but the idea of serving eight years to life in school made me a little unsure,” says Bowcott. “I was raised on a farm, so I worked hard every day doing manual labour. I thought I’d try to get a job in trades until I figured out what I wanted to do.”
Initially, finding work in the trades was a challenge for Bowcott.
“I was 18 and 95 pounds soaking wet, so it was difficult to be taken seriously, especially back in the day,” she says. “I didn’t really pick my trade. I took whatever I could get.”
She worked in the roofing industry for about five years before getting an opportunity at a friend’s plumbing company.
“I was pestering the owner for about a year and a half, so after he went through a streak of bad employees, he called me up to offer an apprenticeship,” she says.
Bowcott quickly proved her worth to her new employer, eventually working her way to a foreman position.
“I initially didn’t want to start my own company,” she says. “It was pretty easy getting a paycheck and not having to deal with the business sides of things.”
When she experienced an injury, she was able to rethink her plans for the future.
“My partner Dale suggested that I try my own thing,” she says. “The idea was that I could pick and choose my jobs and wouldn’t have to work as much. That wasn’t correct at all.”
When Bowcott finally decided to go out on her own, her initial challenge was finding a name for the new enterprise.
“I was given a lot of advice from a lot of people,” she says. “I was unsure if I should go with a feminine sort of name, to let people know it’s owned by a woman, or if I should try and hide the fact that I’m a woman.”
She eventually decided to call her company Westcom, taken from Western Community.
“I had a lot of fear based on the female factor, and in the end, I didn’t even put my name on the business cards,” she says. “I had people not even look at my resume because I was female.”
Looking back, Bowcott has had a very positive experience as a woman in the industry.
“People have been very supportive, and love having me come into their house,” she says. “A lot of women are uncomfortable with having men come in when no-one else is around, so they feel more at ease working with a female tradesperson.
“I can also fit into some really small spaces, and I’m not claustrophobic, so that’s a bonus.”
According to Bowcott, it’s easier than ever for women to get involved in the trades.
“There’s a massive trades shortage right now, and women are a huge untapped labour force that need to be shown the opportunities that are there for them,” she says. “You can get a good career out of it, and make a good wage. It’s shocking that it’s not more enticing for the younger generation.”
Bowcott is working to create more opportunities for women wishing to enter the trades. She gets phone calls and resumes from many women, some of whom have no experience at all.
“I don’t care if they have experience, as long as they work hard,” she says. “I always want to give people a chance to prove themselves.”