People Are People

Mark Skaer’s column (“Industry Could Benefit From A Woman’s Touch”) that appeared in the June 9, 2003 News is right for all the wrong reasons! Having been in the trade for 25 years, I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly in service technicians. Fortunately, I have had the privilege of working with highly skilled, professional men my whole career.

People are people whether they are male, female, black, white, brown, or any other color. The simple fact that they are women will not increase professionalism in our trade. Commitment, enthusiasm, and integrity will do that, not gender.

I do not feel we need to “reach out” to women to increase their numbers in our field. We just need to remove any obstacles. Women will enter the field when they see employers treating their employees with respect, paying them a decent wage, and accepting no less than a professional demeanor. If you treat people like dirt, they will look like dirt. These are the conditions that must change.

I have the great privilege of working as a service manager for a company owned by one of the very few certified woman-owned business mechanical service contractors in the country. Her commitment to professionalism and employee respect is the main reason for her success.

Charlie Watterson Jr., Schuster Mechanical, LLC, South Bend, Ind.

They’re Already Here

[This letter is in response to the editorial “Industry Could Benefit From a Woman’s Touch,” June 9.]

I have been in the HVACR industry for 15 years. I started as a sheet metal installer, moving to service, start-up/air balance, and estimating. I spent five years with a major wholesale distributor both at the counter and inside sales. I have been in my current position as a senior buyer for three years. I have worked with women in every single facet of my career path: delivery drivers, estimators, mechanical designers, system engineers, tin knockers, plumbers, buyers, salespeople, facilities engineers, vice presidents, marketing and manufacturing execs. I work with women every day in this industry.

Now to your point that not many are doing service or installs — maybe that is because they are smart. The perception of dirty, backbreaking work for low pay and bad benefits is not far from the mark (at least in the Southern California market). Add pretty rampant sexism and chauvinism with a tinge of misogyny, and it is no wonder women stay away in droves. This may not sound nice or PC, but it is reality. Women do work in this industry, just not in these parts of it.

To Dr. Catlett’s point, this may change as more women attain more positions of decision in our industry. Until then, we need to concentrate on making this an industry anyone wants to work in — men or women.

From my experience in recruiting lately, of that we are not doing a very good job … but I digress. That is a whole different letter …

Matthew Bracht, Associate Merchant (HVAC), San Diego

A Rewarding Field

I was shocked and pleased to see the column about women [“Industry Could Benefit From a Woman’s Touch,” June 9]. I loved it.

I am an operating engineer in Washington, D.C., licensed in Maryland and Washington as an operating engineer. I have been in this trade since 1984. I have done my share of classes and seminars being the only woman in the class, but that was OK.

I started out working on splits and rooftops. I am now a supervisor responsible for a fourth of the campus at a well-known university, with men of all trades under my supervision.

I love what I do and would encourage other women to explore this field. It is both rewarding and gives me a great feeling of accomplishment. Sure it’s hard learning everything, but what isn’t?

As far as lifting heavy things, it hasn’t been a problem for me. I can lift at least 50 lbs., but if I need help, I simply ask for it.

I have worked with all men for the past 20 years. You do run into those guys who are going to be negative, but I look at it as either an insecurity on their part or just that they are a negative person in general. I do not let that get in the way of my job.

Peggy V. Stack, Facilities Maintenance Zone Leader #3/Engineer, Washington, D.C.

HVACR Saleswomen

I enjoyed your column on how the “Industry Could Benefit From a Woman’s Touch” (June 9). In this age of everyone trying to put on their best politically correct, nondiscriminatory, new-age awareness ... it fit right in.

You are correct in identifying the challenges women have in coming up through the field into a male-dominated labor force. However, this is only one vantage point. You failed to mention a large area of employment in the HVAC industry that already has a great opportunity for women. This is an area that women are equaling and, in many cases, outdoing their male counterparts. This is not the operations side of the business — it’s the sales side of the service business.

Starting with Honeywell, Johnson Controls, and the LINC Service Contractor, among others, women are currently leading the successful charge of selling maintenance agreements to institutional, commercial, and industrial customers. In general, women work well with most buyers, are genuine and trusting, rely less on B.S., and bond well with commercial property managers.

Like many industries, the sales and service side of our HVAC businesses is where the next generation of women entrepreneurs and owners will be born.

Brian Hall, Way Service – Houston, Houston, Texas

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Publication date: 07/07/2003