At the 2003 Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) convention, featured speaker Dr. Lowell Catlett predicted that there will be a different labor force in the not-too-distant future. He said in three years, half of American businesses will be owned by women and one out of every five executives will be a woman.

Translation: There will be a female invasion in the HVACR industry. And, as we all know now, this industry is a male-dominated industry.

I really would like to see what this industry would be like with women providing the majority of the input and results. It would definitely change. No two ways about it. And, in my humble opinion, this industry would be far better off.

Call it a hunch, but even more technicians would have booties over their shoes.

Maybe it’s playing into some old stereotypes, but I believe that women might have the edge on their male counterparts in stressing cleanliness, personal appearance, and customer service. In a word, what I believe women would add to this industry is “professionalism.” This industry definitely needs an image boost, and women could certainly provide it.

Some Thoughts On The Subject

Just for the heck of it, I turned to the HVACR Forum on our Web site ( to see what contractors think of having more women in the field. (I encourage one and all to read the conversation thread on our site. Add to it, if you so desire. We want to hear from our readers.)

While a few respondents voiced the opinion that women had nothing of value to bring to the industry, the general consensus was: Why not women?

“I have worked with one woman in 23 years,” wrote respondent Bruce Kintz. “She was very knowledgeable in the field. She was very good with customers, even the ones that felt she didn’t know what she talking about. One thing she did have trouble with was lifting compressors and larger coils.

“She also had trouble, at first, getting used to the hot Florida attics, but don’t we all?

“No, I have never interviewed a woman for a position. If she was qualified for the position and had no limitations, I think I would hire her, but I never had one apply.”

Replied another: “Women can bring just as much to the table as any man, minus the physical limitations that most women would encounter.”

Robin Boyd (who is a male, by the way), had to agree.

“As long as there are no differences in the way I am treated and as long as I don’t have to act differently, it makes no difference,” he wrote. “If a woman wants to be equal to a man in any business, she will do what is needed to make her position function. I don’t see a lot of difference.”

Where Are They?

From another Web site, I received this reply: “I do not agree with Dr. Catlett that we will be seeing many more women in this trade. I have been teaching HVAC at the community college and union apprenticeship levels for 20 years. Recruiting is one of my responsibilities, and it has been very difficult to interest women in HVAC. We have even made special attempts to raise the number of women, with little success.

“Over the last 20 years, I have had about 10 women in my classes. I know of four who are still in the trade. I just came from an apprenticeship selection committee meeting last night. There were 16 people applying for an apprenticeship and one was female. Our previous selection meeting had 18 applicants and none were women.

“On what basis does Dr. Catlett think we will be seeing many more women in the trade? What is changing? Where can I go to recruit these women? If they are around my local unions, contractors would scoop them up in a minute. We are under pressure from the state and federal government to increase the number of women in our program. Please send them our way.”

Women Wanted

Introducing women into this field is something the industry must address. To say the least, this industry is not on most women’s radar screens. For instance, I have a daughter who will be a senior in high school next fall. She is still searching for a career path. I informed her of the great opportunity this industry has for a woman, but she was not receptive at first.

“I’m not into manual labor, Dad,” she replied. “I’m not going to get dirty wherever I decide to work.”

When I told her she could own a business and hire people who could do that dirty work, her attitude somewhat changed.

“So, how much money can an owner make?” was her next question.

When I informed her the possibilities are endless, she agreed it was a possibility, but she was not ready to commit just yet.

“You mean I can decorate my own office?” she asked seconds later.

Come to think of it, maybe my daughter is not a good candidate. However, I am sure there are others out there. We must seek them out for the betterment of the industry.

Mark Skaer is editor-in-chief. He can be reached at 248-244-6446, 248-362-0317 (fax), or

Publication date: 06/09/2003