Women in Work: She’s a Plumber


Jessie Cannizzaro started her business Milestone Plumbing in 2011. Photo Credit // Milestone Plumbing

Jackie Beck and Myla Seabrook

When Jessie Cannizzaro was a high school student, the last thing she wanted to do was to become a plumber. Not many plumbers are female, and to add onto that her father worked in the business, which allowed her to see the negative side of the industry, adding to her qualms about the career path.

Despite all of this, she chose to disregard the adverse stigma that surrounded her, and started her own business, Milestone Plumbing in 2011. The process of creating Milestone wasn’t easy, and she faced many challenges, especially in the support of her family. When she approached them and told her father of her plans to start her business, she was shocked to learn that he thought it was a terrible idea, and he even attempted to talk her out of it.

This was just one of many different difficulties that she encountered, but she pursued through them, especially in school, where she would go to night school twice a week for a couple hours to pursue her masters degree in business, then get up the next morning to go to work as a plumber.

When she completed her schooling and her business became successful, she still faced a major problem, discrimination. Since plumbing is a largely male dominated industry, many people didn’t want to employ a female worker.

As a woman in the construction industry, Cannizzaro wants more women to recognize that there are doors open to them, and they are just as welcoming to females as they are to every male that has walked through them.

The following was edited for the purpose of comprehension and understanding.

Has the inspiration and motivation for your business changed since you had children?

Yes, definitely, because there’s only so many hours in a day. I think one thing that it’s taught me is to rely on my team more. We have a great team of 13 employees that each bring very great value to the business, and the business is doing extremely well and has a great reputation because each and every one of them care, and are very good at what they do.

It has taught me to depend on my team more and recognize that they are really good at what they do, and they don’t need me to watch over everything. I also learned to allow them the opportunity to take leadership, and to run part of the company without my direct involvement.

Do you have somebody that you look up to or somebody that inspires you to do what you do?

I have lots of people that inspire me, there’s not just one person, but I would say my mom. My mom worked with my dad for many years in his business. He had his own plumbing company. It was just him by himself, and she helped every single day while raising three kids. My work ethic comes from my mother without a doubt, and she is an inspiration. Anybody that knows her knows she is just the sweetest woman who would do anything to help anyone.

How did the pandemic affect your business and what did you have to change in order to adapt to it?

Yeah, we’ve had to kind of change how we’re doing things. When the pandemic first happened it was terrifying, and I think the biggest thing I was afraid of was that I was responsible for all of these people. It came to protecting my team and making sure that we were making smart decisions and keeping them safe, that we were wearing masks and making sure we were keeping customers safe, that we were being smart and taking care of the community, so we put a lot of safety protocols and new procedures in place to make sure we were protecting our employees as well as protecting the community.

What does it mean to you to be a female in the business?

I think about that some days. I think we’re under a bigger microscope so we’re watched more carefully with what we do, we don’t blend in as well. It means that I need to work harder, and make sure that we’re better, because we’re being watched so closely all the time. Our company really believes in quality, and being exceptional at what we do. And I think we do a fantastic job of it, but I think we are held to a higher standard than our male counterparts, and we stand out a little bit because of that.

Do you have any specific memory or moment where you think you faced discrimination from your gender during your during your business?

Yes, a lot. It used to happen a lot more than it does now, and I remember one story where I was working for another plumbing contractor. I remember walking up to the door, carrying one of the new things that I was going to put in. The man opened the door and he looked at me kind of puzzled and he said, well you’re just dropping off the materials, and I said no sir, I’m here to put the materials in, and he said you can’t do that, you’re a woman, and I remember standing, just being like, wow.

He kept an eye on me the entire time I worked there. I don’t think he trusted that I knew what I was doing, but by the end of the day, I think I had impressed him, and he respected me for what I could do. I’ll never forget that moment that I could have called back to the office and just been like this man does not want me here today, but I was able to push through it and be able to show him that his stereotypical preconception was wrong.

Do you think that you being a woman in the business will encourage other women to join the plumbing business?

I do. And maybe, and I’m not picky right now even if it’s not plumbers they become, I just want women to recognize that if they love construction. This is a pathway that they have doors open to them to pursue. If they’d be an electrician if they want to go into h back if they want to go into engineering, these are all very male dominated fields, they don’t have to be that way. And there’s not a barrier to entry that door is open and welcoming to them the same way it is to every male that has walked through it, and I want them to know that they can do anything they put their mind to and not be deterred just because it might be outside of what our society thinks is normal.