During a time when the HVAC industry is struggling to find enough qualified service technicians and installers, women, without a doubt, represent the largest underutilized resource available to the industry. As of 2017, women made up nearly 47 percent of the U.S. labor force. In HVACR, however, that number is significantly lower. Of the 448,000 Americans employed in 2017 as HVACR mechanics and installers, just 2 percent of those were women, according to the U.S. BLS. However, while the HVACR industry has traditionally been male-dominated, women are starting to have their own successes as both owners and technicians.
Women in HVACR Trends
Just 10 years ago, it was fairly rare to see a female working on industrial air conditioning and exceedingly rare for one to own their own contracting business. But times are changing.
Today, more women are entering the field, thanks to advocacy, personal encouragement, and mentoring, and increasing numbers of girls pursuing the STEM fields early on in their academic career. Recruitment efforts within the industry are also gaining steam, thanks to organizations like Women in HVACR, a national organization dedicated to increasing the number of women in the industry. Women in HVACR provides support, mentorship, scholarships, and helps women break into the industry. Through the organization, they connect with schools and help to make the HVAC industry less of a mystery while encouraging women to consider it as a career choice.
Meanwhile, HVAC companies themselves are trying to assist women in making the transition by hosting career fairs, awarding scholarships, and helping to support women new to the field. Additionally, many trades schools, local and federal governments, and private institutions are helping to make it easier for women to train for jobs in AC maintenance, industrial air conditioning, and more.
Some other trends the industry is seeing is more daughters taking over family-owned HVACR businesses passed down from their fathers. Additionally, there is a growing rate of professional positions being filled by females; More women in every position, at every level, from manufacturing to service providers, and from wholesalers to educators. There has also been an increase in women in the HVACR programs at technical schools.
As more women take the helm of major HVAC contracting companies, they are presenting themselves as positive role models for other women and proving that the job isn’t “just for men.”
The Industry Needs Women
The HVAC industry is projected to grow significantly in the next few years. Continued industry growth combined with the estimated retirement of a large percentage of older HVAC employees means the industry needs women to survive. The industry will need about 115,000 new workers trained and ready to work by 2022 just to meet the expected demand of this aging industry. Attracting women into the industry will help fill the need for HVAC professionals. This starts at the high school level, informing students of the opportunities available with a two-year trade degree as opposed to a four-year college degree.
An Untapped Resource
One HVAC company said one of the biggest changes to her business was hiring female technicians. The majority of her customers are women because usually the men are gone and the moms are at home. Women relate to women and in some cases, feel safer having a female technician in the home. The company says that now a lot of their competitors are continuously trying to recruit the female techs.
Not every challenge of being a woman in a primarily male industry has been lifted, but the HVACR industry continues to further open its doors to women seeking a stable, well-paying career. With the increasing open-mindedness and equality, career opportunities, ownership abilities, and established support systems in place, more women are starting to take notice and consider the HVACR industry as a career. As the skilled trades shortage grows larger each day, it’s imperative to begin changing the perception of a woman’s ability to excel in the trade professions. For HVACR businesses to continue to grow they need to find enough quality employees for the future. Owners must look outside the industry’s preconceived idea of what a service technician looks like. It is exciting to see this transformation beginning to take place and to see more women getting involved and succeeding in the HVACR world.