Sarah Murray always wanted to be a plumber just like her dad, but until recently no-one gave her a chance.
Not because she wasn’t good enough, keen enough, or hard working enough; simply because she’s female.
The 21 year-old Trafalgar woman, who completed Certificate II in Plumbing at Swinburne University and sent out more than 40 resumes in her home town of Mansfield and then Gippsland, knows her gender was the deal breaker for some plumbinPlumbing photog companies and contractors because they told her.
“They didn’t hide it. Some phoned me to personally explain they didn’t think I’d be able to handle it because it’s a tough job that involves working in the heat, cold and rain, and being up to your knees in mud,” Sarah said.
“It was so patronising, condescending and disheartening. Being a plumber was my dream and here I was being told I wasn’t cut out for it before they’d even met me. It was rubbish.”
According to Sarah, one man told her outright she couldn’t do it.
“He said ‘everyone’s thinking it, but no-one has the guts to say it’. It made me even more determined to prove them wrong.”
Sarah kept proactively searching for a plumbing role and moved to Gippsland in a bid to find work. She took on farm work to pay the bills, but continued to send out resumes and phone plumbing companies she heard were hiring.
Eventually her perseverance paid off when her resume landed in the inbox of Moe plumber Lee Donoghue.
The sole-trader of Lee Donoghue Plumbing had been looking to expand his business by hiring an apprentice and Sarah sounded like the perfect candidate.
“I admired her initiative and proactive approach,” Lee said.
“She emailed me and then followed it up with phone calls to make sure I hadn’t forgotten about her. I was impressed.”
A father of three young girls, Lee said he was horrified by the response Sarah had received from some in the industry.
“It’s ridiculous. Gender shouldn’t come into it. It’s about whether you can do the job and are willing to learn. I certainly want my daughters to know they can pursue whatever career they choose.”
A month into her four-year apprenticeship, Sarah said she’s “loving it”.
“I’m finally working in the trade I dreamed of. That’s all I ever wanted,” she said.