PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Women make up less than 3% of all the people in construction, but a book and a program going into some Philadelphia schools is aiming to change that. The intention is to teach girls and boys that women can tackle any job they want to.
Kelly Ireland is a rarity. The mother of two is a master plumber, and she owns her own company, TPG Mechanical, in Philadelphia.
"I didn't get into plumbing until I was 26. I fell in love with it," she said.
Ireland is now working to make the profession more visible to young girls and other women.
"I think any type of trades gives you a sense of accomplishment, it gives you a sense of purpose," Ireland said.
She was part of a group of builders, all women, who put a house together in Utah. And Thursday she and a team of women — architects, landscape designers and others with jobs crucial to building a house — stopped by Philadelphia Performing Arts Charter School to inspire the elementary students.
"I think it's very important to show that women are doing this, too, because it's assumed that it's a man's work," she said.
Mollie Elkman, who wrote the children's book "The House That She Built," works in home builder marketing. She explains it's inspired by the project in Utah that Ireland was part of.
"This story highlights 18 different careers in construction and really shows how all the different skills that go into building a house are important and you have all these different paths," Elkman said.
She says she wants the kids, after reading the book, to walk away with a curiosity about their own skills and to build on their self confidence.
"Now that we are here, and we're having successful careers and we love what we do, we want to bring more girls in," she said. "And we want to show them how much fun it is to work with your hands, and that careers in construction give so many different options."
Kobi, a first grader at the school, participated in a project that involved building a bird house and reading the "The House That She Built."
She said she was inspired by one job in particular.
"The plumber," she said. "Help you unclog the water."
It's a career she might take on one day.