There is an enormous labor shortage in the skilled trades, and women have stepped up to assume many positions beyond office work alone. Throughout the Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration (HVACR) industry, women are proving to be excellent technicians, service managers, sales people, marketers and more.

Networking, mentoring, and education

The increasing role of women in the HVACR industry is reflected in the rapid growth of Women in HVACR, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of its members by empowering women to succeed through networking, mentoring, and education.

With a massive labor shortage, women make up a large untapped resource for a potential workforce to fill jobs

Approximately 53% of the current skilled-trade workforce is 45 years or older. Estimates say that by 2022, 115,000 new jobs will be available. Currently only 4% of HVACR industry jobs are held by women, with only 1% of field technician jobs held by women. With a massive labor shortage, women make up a large untapped resource for a potential workforce to fill jobs.

Members from virtually every sector of the HVACR field

Our organization has snowballed in growth, year over year, providing new avenues for networking, partnerships, collaboration and personal development,” says Danielle Putnam, 2019 Women in HVACR President. “For women excited about growing their careers in the HVACR industry, this organization supports each other and is unashamed to show vulnerability so we can better connect with each other to support and help.”

The first international organization for women in the industry, Women in HVACR has 447 current members from virtually every sector of the HVACR field from technicians to contractors, distributors, wholesalers, manufacturers and more, at every level. The organization offers free student memberships as well.

Members can serve as an ambassador for WHVACR and can participate in member-only discussions through HVAC-Talk.
There are currently 79 participants in the mentorship program, and the Ambassador Program in 2019 has seven Ambassadors

Mentorship programs

Member benefits include scholarship opportunities, mentorship programs, a member-only online directory by state, and bi-weekly Zoom video conference calls. Additional benefits include regular updates on Facebook and LinkedIn, an annual conference, and quarterly newsletters. Members can serve as an ambassador for WHVACR and can participate in member-only discussions through HVAC-Talk (a knowledge sharing website), Service Roundtable (a site sharing contractor tips), and HARDI (an organization of distributors).

The organization has awarded $19,000 in HVACR Scholarships since 2015. Sponsorship and membership have grown. There are currently 79 participants in the mentorship program, and the brand-new Ambassador Program in 2019 has seven Ambassadors and five scheduled events.

Member Involvement

One of our key initiatives for 2019 is member involvement,” says Putnam. “We are focusing on this by setting strategic goals within each board committee to better engage our members. Women love to multi-task and get involved – it is our nature – so we want to make sure the communication channels are open wide and everyone clearly understands how vital they are to the networking, education and mentoring within our organization.”

Women in HVACR is a name that so many want to get behind and support, get involved and be a part of something,” says Putnam. “Member involvement is huge.”

This conversation between two women was the catalyst for the organization
Given the interest generated during the panel discussion, Ruth King applied for status as a non-profit organization under the name Women in HVACR

Women in HVACR

The organization’s growth comes from humble beginnings. In 2002 during the AHR Expo in Chicago, Ruth King and Gwen Hoskins began a discussion about the increased number of women joining the HVACR industry and the need for a way to share knowledge and experience through networking while encouraging and supporting one another.

This conversation between two women was the catalyst for the organization. From this simple discussion, a panel discussion was hosted by Comfortech entitled: Women in The Industry during the 2003 conference held in Dallas in conjunction with the Contracting Business Woman of the Year breakfast.

The panel consisted of four women within the HVACR industry and was attended by approximately 40 people. From there, given the interest generated during the panel discussion, by the end of the year Ruth King had applied for status as a non-profit organization under the name Women in HVACR. As so it began.

Advice To Women

We have many male members, and even one male Mentor in our Mentorship program"Currently there are 70 or so sponsors of the organization at various levels. Top-tier Diamond Sponsors are PROPARTS HVAC Parts and Supplies, Ingersoll Rand, Trane, American Standard, York, Johnson Controls, Allied Air Enterprises, Magi-Pak, COSCO and Armstrong Air.

One misconception about the Women in HVACR organization is that it is a women-only group. “Though we are a group whose mission is to support women in the HVACR industry, there is no requirement that you be a woman to fulfill this role,” says Karen DeSousa, Women in HVACR Vice President. “We have many male members, and even one male Mentor in our Mentorship program.”

What’s the organization’s advice to women entering the HVACR field? “Don’t give up!” says DeSousa. “Though you will experience setbacks and hurdles in many forms, this industry is worth the long hours, sometimes difficult working conditions, endless need for continuing education and more.”

Share with LinkedIn Share with Twitter Share with Facebook Share with Facebook
Download PDF version Download PDF version

Author profile

In case you missed it

HVAC Companies in the News as Cold Weather Pummels United States
HVAC Companies in the News as Cold Weather Pummels United States

Deadly cold weather recently made headlines in Texas, where wintry conditions knocked out power to around 4.5 million homes at one point. Power outages, combined with freezing conditions, sent Texans scrambling for home heating alternatives, such as generators and fireplaces, and to seek shelter in powered warming centers or businesses. Some resorted to living in running cars. Snow, ice and extreme cold have been widespread this year in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast United States, too. At one point, 78 million Americans were under a winter weather alert, and more than 27 million were under a hard-freeze warning. More than 2,500 new records were set for lowest high temperatures. At least 38 people nationwide died from winter storms or frigid conditions. Additional Challenges for HVAC Industry For HVAC companies, the cold weather means more business, and additional challenges to serve their customers' needs. Local TV stations often turn to HVAC installers to provide commentary and insights about their surge in business brought on by Mother Nature.Sub-zero weather translated into below-freezing indoor temperatures for some HVAC customers In Lincoln, Neb., for example, sub-zero weather translated into below-freezing indoor temperatures for some HVAC customers whose furnaces were not running. Many of the systems had been badly maintained, operated inefficiently, and/or were beyond their life expectancy. “We’ve had some guys that have houses that their furnaces aren’t running, we’ve had some houses at 31 degrees, 34 degrees,” said John Henry’s HVAC Service Technician, Thaddeus Bertsch, interviewed by 10/11 KOLN News. Issues with Frozen Pipes "As [cold weather] goes on, we are starting to get more calls for frozen pipes," adds Keith Jackson with Jackson Plumbing, Heating, and Cooling, Decatur, Ala. "People have no water," he told WZDX Fox News. HVAC technicians stay extra busy working in the snow and dropping temperaturesAlso, outdoor heating and AC units were shutting down. The units were freezing up, and frozen rain and ice affected the operation of the outside condensers. The company had crews out trying to help people with frozen pipes across Decatur and beyond. HVAC technicians stay extra busy working in the snow and dropping temperatures. For instance, business tripled for Jarboe’s Heating, Plumbing and Cooling in Louisville, Ky. Field technicians were working longer hours because of heaters going out, reported WDRB News in Louisville. "As soon as the phones are open, they’re ringing" For two days in February, by nine o’clock in the morning, J.E. Shekell Inc. in Evanstan, Ind., already had received over 30 service calls. "As soon as the phones are open, they’re ringing,” said Jim Poag of J.E. Shekell Inc. A report by WFIE 14 News in EvanstanFrigid temperatures cause furnaces to work extra hard to keep houses warm highlighted how frigid temperatures cause furnaces to work extra hard to keep houses warm. Depending on how well they are maintained, and how old the machine is, it can sometimes be too much. “We’ve been getting a lot of calls, several, you lose count after a while, just trying to help as many people as we can right now. It’s probably about my seventh call of the day so, we’re out trying to help as many people as we can,” said John Hambleton of Lyerla Heating & Air, Joplin, Mo. Dangerous temperatures and winds Lyerla Heating and Air received 300 service calls in just two days on Feb. 15-16. Like many of the local media reports, KSN News in Wichita, Kan., emphasized the need to prevent untimely breakdowns by getting units serviced before dangerous temperatures and wind chills set in. Staff at Wiersgalla Plumbing & Heating, Eau Claire, Wis., says service calls had risen roughly 25% when the cold rolled in. Staff worked extended hours to fix broken heaters and frozen home exhausts. "Over the last week and a half, we've experienced an increase in calls obviously because of the cold," said Christina Wiersgalla, VP of operations for Wiersgalla Plumbing & Heating, Eau Claire, Wis., in a report by WQOW 18 News. Among the consequences of brutal winter weather are a greater appreciation of the work of HVAC companies and an opportunity to shine a spotlight on how they keep customers comfortable in their homes and businesses.

Lessons From The Past: The Value Of Ventilation In A Pandemic
Lessons From The Past: The Value Of Ventilation In A Pandemic

If history truly repeats itself, might we learn lessons from the past – even lessons about managing a novel coronavirus that upends our way of life and changes the world forever? The most commonly cited parallel to the COVID-19 pandemic is the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918. Both diseases are caused by viruses that had not been seen before. In both cases, no one had immunity to a highly infectious germ that was spread through respiratory droplets. Both outbreaks occurred in multiple waves over several years. Furthermore, in both cases, it became clear that ventilation, fresh air, open spaces and sunlight are useful factors in promoting good health. Fresh Air Movement During the time of the Spanish flu, there were signs posted in buses and throughout New York that advised: "Keep your bedroom windows open [to] prevent influenza, pneumonia [and] tuberculosis." There was even a national campaign known as the “Fresh Air Movement,” calling for people to be outside more, and urging greater ventilation indoors. The movement included a kind of traveling show that spread the word about the “national poison,” which was the result of people breathing stale air inside closed rooms. These concerns predated by decades our enthusiasm for “indoor air quality.” In became common after 1918 to position radiators providing steam heat under open windows to combine warmth with fresh air, even on the coldest of days.   The Open-Air Treatment of Pandemic Influenza It was also common practice by 1918 to place the sick outside in tents or in specially designed open wards But the advantages of fresh air go back even further, as described in a 2009 article in the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) titled “The Open-Air Treatment of Pandemic Influenza.” During the 1918 pandemic, as today, many cities banned public assembly, closed schools, isolated those infected and mandated the wearing of face masks. It was also common practice by 1918 to place the sick outside in tents or in specially designed open wards, according to the AJPH article. The practice dates back to English physician John Coakley Lettsom (1744-1815), who was among the first advocates of the “open-air method.” The 1800s saw emergence of tuberculosis sanitoriums, which treated the lung disease with a combination of fresh air, gentle exercise in the open, nutrition, and a minimum of medicines. Lack of ventilation Spending time in well-ventilated houses in the country became seen as superior to patients being confined to warm, badly ventilated rooms to protect them from the supposedly harmful effects of cold air. Lack of ventilation forced patients to breathe foul air, contaminated with germs, over and over. Research later confirmed the importance of measures to prevent influenza virus from spreading through buildings. Improvements in air-handling equipment, portable filtration units, and introduction of physical barriers and other partitions or doors also provided protection. These lessons were clear long before the advent of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Their successful deployment during the pandemic have further supported their value. importance of HVAC Although the COVID-19 pandemic caught the world off-guard, there were plenty of historical precedents However, lockdowns during the pandemic have also tended to keep the population closed up in buildings, sometimes with less-than-adequate ventilation and access to fresh air. In retrospect, some of those decisions seem regrettable.  Although the COVID-19 pandemic caught the world off-guard, there were plenty of historical precedents. Copious research over the years supported the best approaches to stemming the spread of the virus, although it took time for historical insights to work their way into the general practice implemented in the current pandemic. There is also historical precedent for the importance of HVAC in the current pandemic. Ventilation and fresh air have become higher priorities, as has the HVAC market’s role in providing a safer indoor climate with minimal disease spread.

Change Environments Not Behaviors: How Active Air Filtration Can Help the UK Come Out of Lockdown Long-Term
Change Environments Not Behaviors: How Active Air Filtration Can Help the UK Come Out of Lockdown Long-Term

According to the latest statistics, Britain now has the highest daily COVID-19 death rate in the World, following an unfortunate record month of fatalities during January 2021. While UK Government is quick to defend this statistic, the fact remains that our country has been crippled by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and now, as the population battles through yet another lockdown, it seems that the only 'way out’ is through widespread vaccination. impact of COVID-19 Though imperative, this strategy emphasizes the real challenge that Governments across the globe have faced in trying to control this virus; that reducing the transmission or ‘R rate’ is reliant on the behaviors of people. People who have lived with some form of restrictions for too long, people who are frustrated and tired of the impact COVID-19 has had on their businesses, and people who have simply lost trust in Government U-turns and last-minute decisions. What’s more, despite the best efforts of millions to comply with restrictions, the virus itself is one that is hard to contain, particularly with asymptomatic cases unknowingly passing it to others in key locations like supermarkets or via public transport. Regardless of this challenge, there is a solution that doesn’t rely on changing people’s behaviors, but rather in changing the environment in which people live, work and socialize. That solution is the implementation of Active Air Purification Technology. What Is Active Air Purification Technology? Active air purification technology is effective in every cubic cm of indoor air and surface space simultaneously and continuously Most air purification technologies are passive in that they can only have any effect when the air containing the pollutant comes into close proximity or passes through the unit. Examples of this are filtration, UV-C, and various PCO and ionization technologies. In other words, certain operational conditions must be met in order for them to be effective. Active air purification technology is not limited in this way and is effective in every cubic cm of indoor air and surface space simultaneously and continuously. This means pollutants, like viruses and bacteria, are instantly treated no matter where or when in the indoor space they are emitted or exposed which is significant in the context of COVID transmission. Whether required to mitigate microbials, allergens, or dangerous gases and VOCs, active technology offers a unique solution to destroying microbials instantly, offering a safer, cleaner, and more effective approach to air purification in domestic, commercial, and industrial environments. REME Air Purification Technology REME is an active air purification technology developed and patented 15 years ago by RGF Environmental Group, a COVID critical environmental innovator and manufacturer headquartered in the United States. Using no chemicals or harmful substances, REME comprises a number of known air purification technologies and sciences in one product. Its active capability works by producing and maintaining similar concentrations of hydrogen peroxide molecules as those found in the outdoor air and combines a process of bipolar ionization. When coming into contact with microbials, the naturally occurring ionized molecules break them down, destroy them and then revert them back to harmless water vapor and oxygen. The bipolar ionization effect causes other airborne particulates to agglomerate together causing them to become larger and heavier and drop out of their air or get captured in HVAC filters. RGF’s REME air purification technology produces 1 quadrillion ionized hydrogen peroxide molecules every second, quickly and safely killing any airborne virus or bacteria, including SARS-CoV-2 on a continuous basis. Its effectiveness has been verified by nationally accredited independent labs and testing bodies in the US and by other governments in numerous tests over two decades, with results also confirming a 99%+ inactivation for highly infectious viruses and bacteria, such as H1N1 or ‘Swine Flu’, SARS, Norovirus, MRSA and Bird Flu, just to name a few. Vaccinate Environments And People Air purification technology drives down the R rate for good by effectively vaccinating the air in which the virus circulates In understanding exactly how active air purification technology works and its capability to successfully destroy COVID-19, it’s clear that it presents an opportunity to drive down the R rate for good by effectively vaccinating the air in which the virus circulates. This strategy is already working its way through the United States with leading brands, like restaurant chain TGI Friday, installing active air purification technology across all establishments and has also caught the attention of renowned insurance market, Lloyds of London, which has installed the technology across all UK offices to ensure its 5,000 plus staff members can return safely to work. Improving the environment For nearly 12 months the world has been coping with COVID-19, describing it as an ‘unprecedented period’ where there is no clear end. However, in vaccinating both people and the environment in which it lives, the virus can be controlled once and for all. Ultimately, with a crippled economy, in excess of 100,000 deaths and a generation of children impacted by the closure of schools, now is the time to accelerate response and change the environments in which the virus circulates, not just the people. 

vfd