If you focus on quantities, you will find that women are a minority in the HVACR industry, but when you focus on qualities, like skills, ambition, passion, and drive, you will find that their presence in the industry puts them right on par with the male-dominated majority.

Throughout the years, more and more women have found their place in the industry; the legacies they have built and left behind have inspired others to band together in an effort to promote education, leadership, and growth. The result is a one-of-a-kind organization — Women in HVACR (WHVACR).

“WHVACR is unique in that it includes all facets of our industry — manufacturing, wholesale distribution, and contractors,” said Kristin Jordan, marketing director, AC Supply Co., Fort Worth, Texas.

According to Julie Decker, national sales manager, of Fort Worth, Texas-based ATCO Rubber Products, and current president of WHVACR, the journey started in 2004 with a couple of ladies who realized there was a gap in the industry. “The gap represented something that women business owners needed,” she said. So, WHVACR was founded with a mission to empower women to succeed through networking opportunities, mentoring, and education.

“The mission of our organization is to bring together women throughout all parts of the HVACR industry, from manufacturing, suppliers, contractors, and students and connect them with one another,” noted Angie Snow, owner of Western Heating & Air Conditioning, Orem, Utah. “We know that, together, we can all help each other grow in what has typically been a male-dominated industry.”

The organization and its members aim to spread the word about the opportunities available in the industry. “Mentorship, networking, and education are our key priorities, especially with recruiting new women to pursue a career in HVAC with our scholarship program,” said Jordan.

It’s no secret that labor shortage has been and still is one of the major concerns the industry is facing. “We know there is a shortage of workers in our industry — male and female,” said Decker. “We hope by offering scholarships to young ladies in the technical field or the college/university programs we can help with this issue.”

WHVACR is 100 percent non-profit and is supported by sponsors. “Each year we reach out to other organizations and sponsors to help us fund our scholarships and events,” said Snow. “Our sponsors are our partners and are forward-thinking businesses that are embracing women in our industry.”

The group meets nationally once a year at its fall conference. “We are very excited this year because we have organized our first stand-alone conference, and we are sold out,” said Snow. Previously, WHVACR held its annual conference in conjunction with Comfortech.

“As time passed, the Comfortech management decided to take a different route for 2017, so WHVACR decided to host our own, stand-alone conference — one that does not coincide with another scheduled event but one in which we are sole owners,” said Decker. The event is scheduled for Sept. 27-29 at the Tarrant County College Center for Energy Excellence in Fort Worth, Texas. This year’s theme is: Discover Your Legacy — something WHVACR has been doing since its inception almost 14 years ago. “I could not be more excited about where our group is headed,” Decker continued. “The future of WHVACR is bold and bright! My personal feeling is that we are on the cusp of explosive growth as more women join the industry but also realize the value in building relationships.”

“Historically, significant challenges existed for women breaking into construction-related industries,” said Karen Lamy DeSousa, president, Advance Air & Heat Co. Inc., East Freetown, Massachusetts. “They were made to feel unwelcome, intimidated, and even threatened in some cases. I’m thrilled to say that this is no longer the norm. Through my involvement with WHVACR, I’ve discovered many employers who are not only accepting of females in the industry but are actively seeking to add females to their staff.”

Snow said that as a board member, she is often presented with the question, “How do I get more women to join my company?” And, according to her, the answer is quite simple. “Just be welcoming and open to the idea of women in your business, and start recruiting,” she said. “There are women with skills and talents that can help your company soar to new heights.”

As WHVACR continues to build and define its legacy, achieving major milestones along the way, the industry itself is also growing and evolving, which contributes to the success of WHVACR as an organization as well as the individuals who comprise it.

“The organization has helped me on both a professional and a personal level,” said Decker. “I would have never realized six years ago that I would have the honor to lead this group. We work together for a common purpose, and this has strengthened me, encouraged me, and challenged me to be stronger, to push for excellence, and to do so with kindness and compassion. 

“Our next president, Mary Jo Gentry, is already a strong lady with incredible skills,” Decker continued. “I believe she will take WHVACR to an even higher level.”

Snow joined the industry 10 years ago and said it was very uncommon to see any other women at industry-related evets. “Through the years, more and more women have begun to participate, and it has been so nice to have women that can relate to the struggles and victories that come along with being a women in this industry.”

We’ve all heard the adage, there is strength in numbers. Together, the women in HVACR continue to gain strength, and they are using it in such a way that allows them to support each other as well as the industry. “We raise the bar and the expectations,” said Snow.

So, while the term, “minority,” may sometimes be classified as a disadvantage, that is not the case here. WHVACR is more than a small group of women — it’s a movement, an organization that exists to improve the lives of its members — it’s a force that simply cannot be quantified. In the case of WHVACR, the term, “minority,” only means one thing: it’s an opportunity for growth.

Decker pointed out that there are women from other segments, like plumbing or electrical, creating their own organizations or inquiring about membership with WHVACR. “[We] empower women to be the best in their field,” she said. “We welcome all!”

For more information or to register for the annual conference, visit www.womeninhvacr.org.

Publication date: 9/20/2017