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A day in the life of a female pool tech

IN THE MAIL...

I have been involved in the pool industry since 2012. I didn’t decide to venture out on my own until 2019. At that time, I thought I would clean a few pools to supplement income in the summer months.

My goal was ten.

By the end of summer 2019, I was cleaning over twenty pools, being called for repairs, and scheduling winter closings. I hadn’t anticipated anything other than cleanings.

As I approached the 2020 season, I was opening close to 100 pools and providing weekly maintenance to seventy-five. Calls often come in from desperate pool owners, begging me to fix their noisy motor, leaky pipes, and broken filter.

I never realized the hurdle I would be up against as a woman in the pool industry.

In my area, there are only a handful of larger companies that build, renovate, and repair pools. They are all owned by men and run by men that employ men.

Sometimes, I need parts or items from these local pool stores. Just a few weeks ago, I ordered a motor online (expecting it to be wired for 220 or 110 like most motors) but this motor was 220 only. I needed one fast and needed to be sure it would be correct for my customer. I called the local pool store, owned by a local man, and told him who I was and what I needed.

I am not just a wife calling about something the husband needs – I am in the business of repairing and knowing exactly what I need.

The man on the phone spoke to me like I didn’t understand motors and condescendingly explained how they can be wired either/or.

After taking a deep breath, I defended my stance on making sure the motor I was getting would be correct. I was assured it would be fine but when I arrived at the customer’s home with said motor, it indeed, could not be wired to 110. I immediately called back the store where the man I had spoken with backpedaled and said he was shocked it could not be. Assured me that they normally do not take returns for motors but would make an exception in this case.

They would definitely be getting that motor back.

At times I encounter men who need help with their pools, and seem surprised that I can help them. “You do plumbing?” “Yes I do,” “with PVC?” “Absolutely.”“You glue it?” “Is there another way?”

I have even had men ask me if I can replace a motor that is hard wired into the timer. Of course I can. I am not sure why that surprises men. It leaves me wondering if they ask men questions about whether or not they can handle repairs. Is it because I am a woman?

Oftentimes, my husband comes along for moral support or just keep me company to customer’s homes.

I often notice the men will speak directly to him instead of me.

Even though he knows nothing about what they are asking – it seems men trust men more for advice.

My husband is great at reminding people that my business is called “The Pool Lady” and he is not the lady.

Why do men not take a woman seriously in a traditionally men’s trade? I had no idea when I threw my hat in the ring, I was the only local woman.

I have capitalized on being a womanrun business and brought something to the table that men cannot.

Empathy, friendliness, attention to details, and a bond with my customers that lasts more than just summer months.

When a woman needs help with their pool, they are calling me. I am making a name for myself.

My business is growing by leaps and bounds. So much so that I resigned from my full time job with a school district. I have decided to focus on my pool business and learn as much as I can.

Look out “all knowing” men, I am right behind you and plan on giving you a run for your money!

Shari McGrellis, Wilmington, DE. The Pool Lady LLC.

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