Adrienne Bennett has shattered a number of glass ceilings over the course of her career as a plumber and now CEO of her own company. As the first Black woman to be named master plumber in the country and the first woman in Michigan to complete a plumbing apprenticeship program, Bennett doesn’t make a fuss over her accomplishments and instead just puts her head down to get the work done.
Bennett was profiled by CNN Money, which showcased her rise from plumbing apprentice to CEO of contracting company Benkari LLC. Bennett’s path to plumbing wasn’t her first choice – she initially wanted to attend college for mechanical engineering but encountered racism.
However, a chance meeting during a 1976 presidential rally for Jimmy Carter put her in contact with a man who worked as a recruiter for the Mechanical Contractor’s Association of America. She then joined the Plumber’s Union Local 98 in greater Detroit.
The sexism, racism, and mistreatment she faced got so bad that Bennett had a breakdown but decided to not let the harassment keep her from her ultimate goal. She completed the apprenticeship course and then, at the age of 30, passed the master plumber course. On December 16, 1987, the Michigan Labor Department issued a letter of completion for the master plumber’s course, noting that she was indeed the first Black woman in the United States to achieve the feat
Now 61, Bennett heads her company with her son, which has already secured large contracts and is profitable in Detroit, which has been besieged by financial woes over the last decade.
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