Meet Adrienne Bennett: A Trailblazer In the Plumbing Industry
February is Black History Month - a time for reflecting on the lives and achievements of those Black pioneers who knocked down walls, fought for equality, and helped change the world for the better. Some of the more famous examples come from the worlds of the Civil Rights movement, academia, entertainment, sports, and politics - but one of the most inspiring examples comes from an unexpected place: the plumbing industry. Keep reading to learn about the life and career of Adrienne Bennett, the first Black woman to become a Master Plumber!
Adrienne Bennett got into plumbing through a chance encounter at a Detroit rally for President Jimmy Carter in 1976. It was here that she met a recruiter for the Mechanical Contractors Association of Detroit, Gus Dowels. Dowels was looking to recruit minority women for a 5-year apprenticeship program with the Plumbers’ Union.
Bennett was studying engineering at the time, so this was an intriguing opportunity that seemed like a good fit. The deal was sealed when Dowels mentioned how much she could make if she completed the program - $50,000 a year.
From Apprentice To Business Owner
Bennett’s apprenticeship was a difficult period for her. She was surrounded by men (five women had joined the program before her but dropped out for various reasons), making her a target for discrimination, intimidation, and even physical harassment. Bennett refused to quit or be broken by the abuse she endured almost daily. Instead, she completed the apprenticeship and became a journeyman plumber in 1985.
Two years later, she passed her master plumber exam - making her the first Black woman to obtain a master plumber license. But her career only gets more impressive from there. She went on to become the first Black female plumbing inspector, work as a code enforcement officer for the City of Detroit, and serve as senior project manager for the $80 million expansion of the Henry Ford Hospital. In 2008, she became a business owner when she founded the plumbing contractor Benkari with her son.
Where Is Bennett Today?
Adrienne Bennett is still the President & CEO of Benkari. As a growing independent contracting company, they have completed numerous commercial projects, with plenty more in the works. Bennett was thrilled to have Benkari be involved in the restoration of Michigan Central Station, which she remembers fondly from her childhood in Detroit. Some of Benkari’s other projects include the construction of Little Caesars Arena and the renovation of much of Detroit’s utility infrastructure.
To this day, Bennett remains the only Black female master plumber in America - but she wants to change that. She is a vocal advocate for women and people of color in the plumbing industry. She continues to exemplify what’s possible through hard work, perseverance, and adversity. Truly, Adrienne Bennett’s story is one slice of Black History that will inspire and encourage generations to come!
About Chris Wilson Plumbing & Heating Repairs Inc
Chris Wilson Plumbing & Heating Repairs Inc has been Palm Desert’s preferred plumber for over 35 years. As a family-owned and operated local business, they are honored to have been named Nextdoor’s Neighborhood Favorite company for two years. They offer same-day service, competitive pricing, membership plans, and 24/7 emergency plumbing service - so there’s no better choice for plumbers in Palm Desert, CA!