"I have no idea how to attract more women to this work, any more than I know how to attract more men into air conditioning," mentioned a woman contractor owner from Texas. "When you find the answer, let me know!"
One could say that this industry is missing some of the "glamour" of other careers, but Chrissy Nardini would disagree.
"Women become scientists and engineers and that isn't necessarily glamorous," said the president of American Metals Supply Co. of Fenton, Mo. "It may be the distribution industry doesn't promote itself enough for the challenging and exciting careers it can provide. It seems to be a well-kept secret."
Well-kept secret indeed; in truth, it's not just the distribution-wholesale arena, either. It's the entire package, which includes the manufacturing and the contracting sectors of this industry. The industry continues to do a hapless job in promoting itself to women. We need to get their attention. There needs to be a plan in place.
OPEN MINDS ARE NEEDEDIn the end, it would help if more men would be acceptable to the idea that women can be a healthy part of this industry. It's still hard for some (many?) men to take a woman seriously in this field. I know of a woman, who is a chief operating officer of a residential contracting firm in Pennsylvania, who said she has walked trade show floors looking for new ideas only to be completely ignored by vendors who assume she is not their customer. This is frustrating for her.
"Not being greeted with open arms is an understatement! It was more like, â€˜Who are you and what makes you think you know anything?' " remarked well-known consultant Ruth King, recalling her earlier years in this industry. "I had to prove myself every day. Now, it is a lot easier because I have built the reputation and helped thousands of contractors grow sales and profits through one-on-one consulting, seminars, and speeches over the past 20-plus years."
As it stands now, most women end up in this industry through birth, marriage, or accident. That's not a solid recruiting tactic. In truth, employers should substantially increase their female applicant pool to increase the number of hires. The key to achieving this increase is implementing women-specific recruitment strategies. Messages should be that we have women working in heating and cooling, we want more women in heating and cooling, and we welcome them.
SOME SUGGESTIONSAn employer may find developing a "women in HVACR" section of his Website to be a low-effort, high-return strategy. After all, most employers are using the Internet to recruit job applicants. Another possible way is to host a career expo. Experts believe such expos should be two to three hours long and should be held on the weekend or in the evening, as employers want to attract participants who are employed.
If you already employee women, this expo can include a panel of three or four women employees from a variety of assignments who could talk about their work, information about the application and selection process, tips to help women prepare for the physical agility test, if applicable, and a place where attendees can ask questions in private.
Know that if a female applicant goes to the home page of a company's Website and finds photos of only male employees, she is less likely to click through to the recruitment information than if she sees images of someone who looks like her. Companies seeking to attract female candidates should make sure that there are a strong proportion of women images on their Websites, brochures, flyers, and other publications.
According to the Institute for Women in Trades, Technology and Science (IWTTS), contractors should reach out to women who are physically active by posting flyers in places such as gyms; locker rooms of women's sport teams; and facilities for rock climbing, karate, kickboxing, and similar activities. One employer said he recruited female candidates at an aerobics instructor conference.
According to IWTTS, another good source for potential female candidates is women with hobbies that are traditionally dominated by males, such as aviation, skydiving, target shooting, and car restoration. Women in the military reserves and veterans' groups should also be pursued; contact your local military base to find out how to connect with them.
While the majority of women have never thought about doing nontraditional work and do not have paid work experience in a nontraditional job, IWTTS believes that one-third probably have skills or interests that are transferable to nontraditional work, such as HVACR. Just as you need a business plan in order to stay in business, you need a recruitment plan in order to get women to join the ranks.
If you are a contractor, wholesale-distributor, or manufacturer that has had success in hiring women, The NEWS wants to know. E-mail (email@example.com) the details of how you accomplished this feat so The NEWS can relay the tips in a future issue.
Mark Skaer, Senior Editor, 618-239-0288, firstname.lastname@example.org
Publication date: 07/24/2006