“Do what you feel you can do and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If you feel like you can do it, you will always be able to succeed.” Jackie Mason has lived her life with this family motto in the front of her mind no matter what life has thrown at her.
One thing Jackie always knew about herself from a young age was that she wanted to work with her hands. When her dad started up his own business, Peter Mason Plumbing, she jumped at the chance to work with him on the weekends while at school. She instantly felt a passion for plumbing and started applying for jobs in the industry. Jackie applied for over 300 plumbing associated roles in Auckland and was continuously turned away. “We don’t have any female facilities, so can’t take you on,” and “we can’t take you on because you are a female and you can’t handle it,” were the most common reasons she heard.
Jackie’s motto of not letting anyone tell you what you can and can’t do meant she didn’t get disheartened and decided to keep working for her dad. She worked unpaid for two years, and little did she know her dad was in contact with the plumbing board trying to get Jackie approved for a plumbing apprenticeship. Jackie would have been the first female plumber in New Zealand at the time. The board was hesitant, as they weren’t sure she would stick with it because it would be a tough industry for a female. Again, her family kept fighting and after two years she was finally able to prove herself, go for an apprenticeship and get paid for her hard work. She hasn’t looked back since, “if you love something you don’t give up on it, you have to stick with it.”
Jackie never once considered a university education as she is severely dyslexic and has struggled with it her whole life. She knew a textbook education wasn’t for her and she explains she has always been talented at working with her hands.
Jackie doesn’t really have an ‘average day’ on the job because every day is so different. She is the sole employee for Peter Mason Plumbing, so her role has a broad scope as she doesn’t have a team behind her helping her along and making sure there are no mistakes. She must get everything right the first time around, especially because a lot of her customers watch her while she works as they don’t believe she is entirely capable of doing a good job.
Jackie holds herself to a really high standard so there’s no room for any doubt. She mentions that although she feels there has been a slight shift in the treatment of females in the trades it’s still something she battles with on occasion. Jackie doesn’t get bothered by it though. “I treat it like water off a duck’s back”, she explains that it’s best to let it go and prove them wrong in the work that she does rather than giving a snarky comment back.
Despite it being a tough industry for women, Jackie would recommend plumbing to other females as there is a whole world of trades out there that need to be opened up to women. These days she usually gets comments like, “are you sure you can do the job” rather than what she used to get which was more along the lines of, “no, you’re not coming to do this job because you’re a female.”
Jackie explains she thinks women have a lot to offer the trades as they go about the job differently to men. “Women are usually tidier, more organised and more efficient in their work, we often get it right the first time instead of having to go back and fix it up.” Because of this, and how unique she is in such a male dominated industry, she has found herself to be quite sought after. For now, she is happy where she is working in the family business, with the people who always believed in her.
She is keen to support women in the industry and has taken women out to sites and has shown them the ropes to see if it’s the right decision for them or not. Getting into the trades is a much bigger decision for women than it is for men because women have a lot more pressure riding on them to succeed as they are expected to fail. “It’s not an easy job but it's as easy as you wish to make it. The days are what you make of them and if you love it, then it’s worth it”
Jackie knew she was going to work in plumbing one way or another and never gave up hope that one day she would be a certified plumber. She convinced her dad that she was just as capable and passionate as any man would be. Since then, she has been convincing the whole of New Zealand of the same thing. Jackie explains her journey and her career success comes down to one thing; attitude. The determination and perseverance Jackie has across every aspect of her life meant that giving up was never an option. And we think that’s pretty damn cool.