In the Company of Men

I am a woman and the president of an hvacr company in Howard, NY. I am writing in response to John R. Hall’s column about Sarah Wyckoff [“Sarah’s Not Smilin’ — Yet,” June 4].

I think there is a real need for women in this industry and a lot of opportunity for them. As a woman in a man’s world, I felt I did need to prove myself and my knowledge before I was accepted, but once I was accepted, I was treated the same as anyone else in the industry.

My daughter is our salesperson and maintains a high closure rate because she listens to what people say and develops a good rapport with her customers. We both work hard to stay up with the latest technology, and I think that means a lot.

Our company is a family-owned and -operated business, and having my husband and son in the business has definitely made it easier, but it’s been our hard work and knowledge that have made us an accepted and respected part of the industry in our area. I wish I could let more women know to hang in there, this is a good industry to be in.

Some of Sarah’s trouble may be what I see with most new hvac graduates, which is unreal expectations.

Diana Linton


On Call Energy Management Systems

Howard, NY

And Prejudice for Some

[Editor’s note:This letter is in response to John R. Hall’s editorial “Sarah’s Not Smilin’ — Yet,” June 4.] Gender bias? You bet! As a veteran teacher (17 years) of a very successful Heating, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration service program in New York, I have witnessed firsthand the bias in our industry. I can accurately state that my placement rate is 100% as long as my graduates are male. Several years ago, two females completed my 900-hour course successfully. Both were intelligent, highly motivated, and good communi-cators. Both girls were placed in entry-level jobs. However, the employers made it quite clear up front that women had no place in this industry. They were doomed before they received their first paycheck.

Girl number one was told she was expected to work a minimum of 60 hours per week — quite impossible as she was a single mom with two small children, trying to make a career for herself and support siblings. She worked a few months, but was unable to maintain a 60-hour workweek while raising two kids.

Girl number two, also a single mother, was hired by a company whose owner was very vocal about females in the industry. The good news was she was expected to work just 40 hours per week. Was she lucky. The bad news was the company sent her out in a van on her own the very first day, obviously to prove his [the owner’s] point. Needless to say, she struggled and was morally beaten down. On day four of her employment, she injured her arm while taking a 40-foot ladder from the roof of the van. After receiving medical attention, she returned to work two days later to discover she’d been fired.

I could go on and on with more, similar stories, but I’m sure you get my drift. And it’s not just our trade. I’ve seen other females in other trade programs in our school suffer the same fate. Our hvac industry is facing a severe shortage of workers during the next five years. Some day soon, someone will wake up to no heat or no cooling, get on the phone to call for service, and find nobody at the other end to answer. This industry needs to re-evaluate the need for “five years experience required” availability, the growing number of entry-level candidates, and most importantly, a wage that pays more than one can earn working at the local home improvement store or supermarket. Nine hundred hours of training deserves more than minimum wage plus a dollar or two. This is 2001. Gas prices are approaching $2 per gallon, almost as much as a gallon of milk.

Thomas Destino Instructor Niagara Career and Technical Center Sanborn, NY

Publication date: 06/18/2001