Numerous international organizations have launched an initiative to advance career opportunities for women in the cooling sector. The International Network for Women in Cooling (INWIC) was created to advance engagement, promote career opportunities, and increase overall participation of women in the cooling sector, which includes refrigeration, air-conditioning, and heat pumps (RACHP). The initiative is led by the World Refrigeration Day (WRD) Secretariat and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) OzonAction, in cooperation with many international organizations, including ASHRAE, IIR, and Women in HVACR.

Although women make up half of the world’s population, they are significantly and visibly underrepresented in the RACHP sector in all roles. INWIC seeks to reverse that trend. It is doing so while recognizing that there are many excellent initiatives and structures established by different partners that are promoting women’s engagement in the RACHP field. However, more cooperation and information exchange at the global level is needed to link these individual efforts and make them even more meaningful and impactful, especially in developing countries.

“ASHRAE is committed to providing a welcoming environment to all people and celebrates its diverse culture through an active global membership,” said Mick Schwedler, P.E., Fellow ASHRAE, LEED AP, 2021-22 ASHRAE president. “The INWIC initiative aligns with our Society’s deeply valued diversity, equity, and inclusion principles, and we enthusiastically support efforts to expand the landscape for women to participate fully in the research and development of emerging cooling technologies.”

INWIC will connect women in the predominantly male cooling sector, empowering success through networking, mentoring, education, and opportunities to shine as visible role models, fostering a lasting legacy to inspire the next generation of women innovators and problem solvers. It will also offer an avenue to individual women, especially from developing countries, to gain career experience and development that may otherwise prove inaccessible.

“There are not enough visible 'women in cooling’ role models. We want to change that,” said Stephen Gill, head of the WRD Secretariat. “We will create a resource for girls and young women to see videos and read real-life stories from a diverse range of women in different roles within the cooling sector. This will also serve to connect and inspire women currently working in the cooling sector.”

The INWIC initiative contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, the UN’s blueprint for addressing global challenges to achieve a better and more sustainable future. Goals of the initiative include:

  • Gender equality for women, including equality of opportunity;
  • Improved livelihoods through job creation and employment;
  • Making cities and people’s lives more sustainable; and
  • Climate adaptation and mitigation.

An important role of the INWIC initiative is to serve as a platform to promote environmental stewardship within the cooling sector. This includes, among other issues, proper and safe management of refrigerants like HFCs, HCFCs, hydrocarbons, and new alternatives.

“The cooling sector is critical for achieving environmental objectives, including the continued success of the Montreal Protocol and for addressing climate change. If they are to meet their compliance obligations, countries need a strong, vibrant, and inclusive cooling sector,” said James Curlin, head of UNEP OzonAction. “Women represent a tremendous, largely untapped source of innovation and skills for this sector, and they need to be actively engaged if we are to solve the great environmental challenges of our time. INWIC seeks to do just that.”

In the next few months, INWIC founding partners will introduce several programs that directly support individual women and young girls to further engage and find opportunities that can support the advancement of their careers, the attraction to cooling education disciplines, and active engagement with the cooling community.