It’s been a long and sometimes difficult road for Sooke’s Mary-Anne Bowcott, the owner of Westcom Plumbing and Gas.
Today, she is a business owner, a journeyman plumber, a class B gasfitter, and a certified steep slope roofer – and this week she was named the Canadian Construction Association person of the year.
But 15 years ago, when she was trying to break into the construction business, she had a hard time getting anyone to take her seriously.
Of course, she was 18 years old at the time, with no experience in the construction field. She was also female and, at less than 100 lbs., she did not fit the stereotypical image expected of a construction worker.
“This was something I wanted to do and when I say I’m going to do something I guess I have a bit of a stubborn streak. I don’t like being told that I can’t. It makes me want to do it even more,” said Bowcott when asked about her start in the construction trades.
It was that combination of drive, energy, determination and intelligence and, yes, maybe a bit of stubbornness, that have allowed Bowcott to put her mark on Greater Victoria’s construction scene.
“She certainly deserves the award,” said Lisa Stevens, the chief operating officer of the BC. Construction Association.
“She was one of the founding members of the B.C. Tradeswomen Association, she’s on the governance committee for the Builders Code that was launched on International Women’s Day to work toward the promotion of women in the construction trades, and she has advocated for women in construction both in word and action.”
As the owner of Westcom Plumbing, Bowcott she has taken on several women who now work for her firm, although she stops short of saying that the choice of hiring women was a planned effort.
“I’m always looking for plumbers and it just so happened that a lot of the resumés I get are from women,” said Bowcott. “I know that some men don’t want to work for a woman, especially a young business owner.”
The latest award is not the first time Bowcott has been honoured.
In 2017 and 2018 she received the Sooke Chamber of Commerce’s Trade and Skilled Labour Excellence Award and in April 2018 she was awarded the B.C. Construction Association’s Provincial Construction Leadership Award, which recognized her for her company’s work in employing and supporting female construction workers.
Her work also extends to a variety of speaking engagements where she does her best to inspire other women to explore their possibilities.
“Someone gave me a chance years ago, and it changed my life. If I manage to change one person’s life in return, it’s my way of giving back,” said Bowcott.
That giving back includes supporting the Fill a Dream Foundation and occasionally attending Girl Guides’ functions to inspire girls to consider unconventional possibilities in their own lives.
“Mary-Anne is certainly deserving of all the recognition she gets,” said Stevens.
“She is a force of nature in steel-toed boots.”