Meet all of the 2022 Top Women in HVAC

Kathy Betlem

Title: President
Company: John Betlem Heating & Cooling Inc.
Educational Experience: Business degree from the Rochester Business Institute
Industry Work Experience: I have been in the HVACR world for over 40 years.

What caused you to/when did you enter the HVACR industry?

After a semester of college, I could see I was not ready for college yet. When I came home, I went to work for the family business at age 18. I thought of it as a job “for now” and it became a career I loved.


Describe the proudest moment in your career.

Sad and proud at the same time. My grandfather started our business 81 years ago out of his home. We worked out of that house/office (with a few additions) for the last 80 years. Last year we decided there was not another inch of room we could get out of that office, and we moved to a bigger building. Sad to leave the family home behind and proud to move our working family to a bigger building to grow in. I am so proud that we have been able to carry on the name and legacy of the business through the growth. We now have 70+ employees, and they are all like family to us.

The proudest moment for me was putting a deal together to purchase another local HVAC dealer. It was the first time we even thought about buying another company to help our growth. I learned a lot, and there a few things I will do differently next time. I was telling my dad about it and he said, “I can see you are really enjoying this whole process.” I truly enjoyed every part of the merger. It was awesome to add great people to our team and give them more opportunities to grow.


What challenges do women face in this profession?

The HVACR field is a male-dominated field. It truly needs more women in it. I would say when I started 40 years ago, it was really hard for people to understand that a women might have the right answer and be able to help with their HVACR issues. Although women are being encouraged to enter more technical jobs as of recently, both in trade schools and college, a majority of these HVAC professionals are male, and breaking into and disrupting the status quo can be challenging both on a personal level and professionally. Women might need to prove their worth rather quickly and possibly at higher standards.

When I was first starting 40 years ago, I remember I answered the phone and the gentleman on the other end of the call had a question on a humidifier. He mentioned what the issue was, and I told him a few things he could check. He told me that he really needs to talk to a guy in the office so they could help him.


How can we increase the number of women in HVACR?

Sounds old school, but changing the public’s image of what it means and looks like to be a technician will go a long way. Society and social institutions influence both parents and the youth that this field is for those who can’t hack college or who are not smart enough to get a better job — or even worse, that you cannot be successful in life.

Movies and TV shows have all criticized this profession; changing that image will take time. More importantly, when trying to change the image, specifically focusing on women in the workforce, stereotypes, and sexist views need to be tabled.


What does your day-to-day job entail?

Currently I am president of the family company, and my days consists of coaching others and planning for our future.


What advice do you have for females who are considering entering the HVACR field?

When deciding to pursue a career as a woman, the best advice one can receive is to be patient and know that this trade takes time to learn. Thick skin helps, but also commitment. If you can stick it out, it will be worth however long you want to dedicate it to your career.