Fighting the Bias Against Women in Septic Pumping

Yvonne Hoover's industry is dominated by men, but she's not going to let that stop her from pumping septics
Fighting the Bias Against Women in Septic Pumping

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Working in a male-dominated industry, Yvonne Hoover — the owner of Suburban Septic & Excavating Services in Kirkwood, New York — has the strength of character to stand up to the occasional chauvinistic customer. But developing it didn’t happen overnight.

Sometimes the bias is subtle, like people insisting to talk to her father, Rod Hoover, implying that as a woman she can’t possibly know much about the septic or portable restroom industries. “They just will not talk to me,” she says. “They assume I’m here just to do the behind-the-scenes work.” Or they try to “pull on my heartstrings,” as she puts it, figuring she’ll be a softer touch and give a customer a lower rate, for example.

Hoover used to give in and let people talk to her father. But those days are over. “I don’t back down anymore,” she says. “One, we don’t have the time. And two, I usually know the answers to all their questions. And if I don’t know the answer, I will get one.”

The latter is critical to winning over those who think a woman can’t run a wastewater business. “You have to be as knowledgeable about the industry as possible,” she says. “That builds their confidence in your abilities.”

Hoover gives credit to her father, who spent years showing her the ropes, teaching her every aspect of running the business that was founded in 1957 by her grandfather, Gordon Hoover Sr. She says she and her father have had disagreements over the years, but she still depends on his advice.

Here's a shot of Yvonne Hoover with her father, Rod Hoover, in front of one of Suburban Septic & Excavating Services' buildings. (Photo By James Robinson)

“We always want the same outcome, but the way he says it out loud and the way I say it out loud, well, we don’t always make sense to each other,” she says. “One day he wants to give me free range to run the business, and the next minute I’m still his kid. But half an hour later we’re giving each other a hug and saying how sorry we are.”

But Hoover says the bottom line is that she couldn’t do it without her father. “And in the end, we both want the same thing: satisfied customers and the ability to pay our bills. We actually love working for our customers, finding solutions to their problems and getting a paycheck for doing something that we really enjoy.”


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