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.
There are currently 79 participants in the mentorship program, and the Ambassador Program in 2019 has seven Ambassadors
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.
“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.”
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.”