Rheem Partners with NAWIC

Last month, a bunch of like-minded women gathered at Hirepool’s Mount Wellington branch to meet other women who work in the trades, tuck into a BBQ dinner, and most importantly, get a ‘hand’s on’ experience with heavy machinery. The event was hosted by NAWIC – the National Association of Women in Construction – a forwardthinking non-profit that’s quickly become one of the leading voices for tradeswomen in New Zealand, and as a new sponsor, Rheem were lucky enough to be invited along. According to Jessica Bensley, Rheem’s HR Manager, the event was a huge success.
“The Hirepool staff stayed back, which was really awesome, and they opened up the facilities to us. We were able to use different machinery – scissor lifts, long-reach cranes, rollers, diggers – and just learn more about them. We were walked through the process of how you prime a wood chopper, how you start it and how to operate it safely.
“It was a nice environment to pick up some hand tools and machinery without feeling self-conscious. And the team at Hirepool were fantastic – really inclusive, really friendly and really helpful.”
For Jessica, the event also provided a great opportunity for women who work in typically male-dominated industries to share their experiences.
“We got to mingle and talk to other people in the industry. Everyone worked in construction in one way or another – in the office or on the tools themselves. It was just great to talk to people about their experiences and network and make connections.”
The partnership between Rheem and NAWIC started after Jessica and her team saw the important work that NAWIC do in the industry at the Master Plumber’s conference last year (Rheem has been a sponsor of the Women in Plumbing programme at this annual event for four years running).” Rheem has now committed to a 2-year sponsorship – and Jessica was one of the key advocates. For her, it was about “putting our money where our mouth is.”
“If we’re sponsoring Women in Plumbing, why aren’t we sponsoring this organisation and putting them out there and trying to help as best we can? There’s a shortage of plumbers and apprentices in New Zealand and there’s a whole market out there of women, so it’s just about bringing attention to it, normalising it, promoting it and sponsoring it as a manufacturer.”
Rheem also has some solid proof that the stigma around women in trades is long outdated.
“We helped one of our employees who was working on the factory floor to get a plumbing apprenticeship. She’s been doing it for over a year now and she’s loving it… it’s just making sure that people aren’t being discounted because of their gender. It’s about opening up that conversation.”
“ …it’s just making sure people aren’t discounted because of their gender. 
If you’re wondering where Jessica finds her motivation for this advocacy work, look no further than her family. Not only has she always worked in male-dominated industries, but she also has four daughters, one of whom is an apprentice automotive spray painter.
“My motivation really is for my daughters not to have any barriers… it shouldn’t matter what gender you are, and I just want to educate and help people realise that it’s not a big taboo that women should be doing these roles.”
And Jessica’s work is being noticed. She’s been asked to speak on the panel at the Women in Plumbing conference in May, which is focusing on overcoming stereotypes. For her, this ties in well with what Rheem is doing in the industry.
“It means we can give a voice to what we’ve been talking about here and what NAWIC is about as an organization.”
If you’re keen to learn more about NAWIC and the regular events they hold throughout the year, head to nawic. org.nz. Their next event is a family one – parents and kids are invited to quite literally build a bridge with their kids, and there will also be a cardboard city for just the kids to construct.
Rheem will also host a NAWIC event themselves at some point this year – so watch this space!