When it comes to the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) workforce, women continue to be underrepresented. Many industries that rely on basic STEM training are dominated by a predominantly male workforce. However, the tide is turning and more and more women are entering the HVAC industry every year.
The experience of the panelists ranges from decades of experience to recent college graduates at the start of their careers. And their training and education is all-encompassing, including degrees in mechanical engineering, English business writing, and marketing, to name a few.
How they entered the HVAC industry also varies, from beginning in an administrative role that led to the sale of energy recovery and indoor air quality products, and college internships turning into in full-time opportunities, these women come from all walks of life and have a unique view of career opportunities for women in the HVAC industry.
Pelicos noted that when she entered the industry in the mid-1980s, she was very lucky because “the organization [she] who I worked with was very open to sharing knowledge and teaching [her] plus technical parts of the industry. When she started there was a lot of room to grow, but that changed with the people who entered the industry, especially women, who found themselves in specific jobs and functions, and that still has exchange.
Ziegler agreed, “I feel like it’s becoming a little more common not to be the only woman in the room when we have meetings or get into large groups.” She continued to note that this still happens a lot because it’s a male-dominated industry. However, a shift is happening on college campuses, with women making up 30-40% of students in STEM classrooms.
This is happening in part because of outreach to engage women and girls in STEM programs at a younger age. “At my university, we had a women in engineering program led by one of my professors. We went to middle and high school a lot…talking to the kids, telling them that these are other options for you if you like science, if you like math,” Busse said.
Kalinowski had similar experiences: “When I was at university, a professor contacted me several times to help me organize events on campus to promote the integration of young children and young girls in STEM. One of them was a round table kind of like what we’re doing now, and it was to show, to give the kids the opportunity to see women like themselves in a position that they could achieve.
What is clear – to attract more women into the STEM workforce, men and women in these industries must continue to raise awareness of the career opportunities available to them.