Much like myself in high school, the HVAC industry is having a hard time getting the attention of the ladies. The difference is, while I certainly was not bringing much to the table back in the day — still don’t — the HVAC industry does have a lot to offer.

The industry is growing. In fact, it is projected to reach more than $120 billion by 2022. In addition, the global HVAC market is forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 4 percent from 2017 to 2022. What isn’t seeing a whole lot of growth is the amount of women in HVAC. In 2017, women made up only 1.4 percent of the industry.

Women represent an untapped resource for the HVAC industry — an industry that is in desperate need of more workers. It starts with getting the younger generation of women interested in these subjects. Trane and Ingersoll Rand recognized this and decided to get involved. They helped close this gender gap for a group of 60 Orange County girls. Project Scientist is a nonprofit organization that provides girls, ages 4 to 12, with STEM camps and enrichment opportunities. The Ingersoll Rand foundation provided a $25,000 grant to support Project Scientist in its mission to increase opportunities for women in STEM careers. Held at the Brea, California, Trane office and hosted by the women and men who work there, the July 11 “Expedition” event featured various STEM learning stations.

“The event required a core team to plan the event and create the work stations that aligned with the ‘Power Your World’ Project Scientist’s week of STEM Camp,” said Louise Rasmussen, Trane human resources business partner. “These young girls have different interests that hold their attention. Therefore, creating hands-on interactive energy stations was needed to keep them engaged. The girls had the courage to ask many questions to our team of presenters. Some technical, but several just curious about who influenced us and if we had a unicorn or pets. Pleasant surprises. The Trane volunteers were just as excited about the event as the kids.”

Learning stations at the event taught the girls:

  • How building owners and operators can optimize a building’s performance using intelligent systems, building automation, and energy management services;
  • How to use salt to conduct electricity in Play-Doh;
  • How solar power and hydro power work; and
  • How both rocket ships and model rockets are powered.

Now, this one event is not going to solve the problem. In fact, maybe none of these kids end up in HVAC. However, it is a start, and it shows the type of thinking this industry must have to bring more women into the fold.

“We are going to continue joint partnerships with women associations in engineering or professional organizations,” said Rasmussen. “Involvement with organizations that promote information and opportunities for careers in our industry.”

This is not just the manufacturers’ responsibility. Everyone involved in the HVAC industry should be brainstorming ideas to get more women to be a part of it. And, of course, the other part of the equation is to make sure those women who do join the industry feel comfortable at all times. This includes changing some of the terms we use at the office. For instance, my sister always corrects me when I use the term “girls” instead of “women,” correctly pointing out that I don’t call my male co-workers boys.

It is changing the culture of HVAC. It is not easy — it never is. But doing so would open up a workforce that is immensely needed.

Publication date: 8/20/2018

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