Sue Murphy is leading the way again, this time as chief executive at the Water Corp
THE weight of expectation certainly isn't lost on new Water Corporation chief executive Sue Murphy.
Appointed to the role in December last year, Ms Murphy has taken over the role vacated by Jim Gill, who has been acclaimed nationally and internationally for his leadership in water resource management.
But Ms Murphy, who has been named among Australia's top 25 most influential female engineers, is far from daunted.
"When we corporatised [in 1996], Jim came in to be the first corporate leader, so Jim really is the corporation," she told WA Business News.
"People ask whether it's odd being the first woman [CEO], and I say, 'well I'm actually the first anything that isn't Jim, I'm the first non-Jim Gill person'. So it's nothing to do with gender, it's to do with not being Jim Gill.
"That's a huge challenge, but it's also a huge opportunity."
Ms Murphy is no stranger to the 'first female' tag.
Starting out at university as one of the only two female engineering students at the University of Western Australia, Ms Murphy was elected the first female president of the University Engineers' Club.
Awarded a scholarship from Clough in her final year of studies, she spent 25 years with the organisation, rising through the ranks to become the first woman appointed to the board.
Ms Murphy said her experience working on the ground as a project manager gave her a footing in the mechanics of project delivery, and an awareness of the culture of the construction industry.
"I spent a lot of time onsite as a young engineer, and generally I was the only female on site," she said.
"Construction is very blokey. But it's always very time orientated, there's always a deadline and you've always got your back against the wall. Project management is basic planning and organisation."
Ms Murphy said gender issues rarely interfered with her work.
"I've been in male-dominated area for so long you sort of cease to have gender, and you just do what you do," she said.
"Some selective ignoring never goes astray, and a bit of selective deafness doesn't go astray either.
"I don't mean major things, I think chronic injustice needs to be fought, but if someone's going to call you 'love' or 'dear', you can make a big fuss or you can just sit back."
Before her appointment as CEO, Ms Murphy was general manager, planning and infrastructure, with responsibility for the management of a capital works program worth more than $1 billion a year.
Now committed to continuing the legacy of Dr Gill, the corporation is taking a longer-term look at water resource planning with its Water Forever campaign, with the aim of making a large proportion of the state's water supply climate independent.
No Doubting Murphy's Lore
Who is your mentor?
Harold Clough. Harold was mentor to two-thirds of the engineers in this state. He was always very big on personal integrity and personal empowerment. He was a tremendously empowering boss; he believed that if you really wanted to do something you'd do it well, so there was great freedom in the company.
What is your business mantra?
My business mantra would be, life's too short for cheap wine, cask wine or instant coffee, you've got to do what you want to do, you've got to go 100 per cent.
What has been the influence of your family on your career?
My mum and dad always believed I could do anything I wanted, and that's very empowering. My gran always kept everyone very level. My family is full of big strong bossy women, actually tiny little bossy women; I guess we all grew up thinking we could do whatever we wanted to do.
What would you rate as your biggest achievement?
My biggest achievement is my three girls. I've got three teenagers, they're 19, 17 and 13, so I know my flaws. No one's as critical as a teenage girl, and I've got three of them.
If you could go back and change one thing what would it be?
If I was going to change something I would have been less hard on myself. I think most women are quite hard on themselves.