Self-trust can change the 45/1 ratio of male to female among HVAC workers

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Tennessee, USA – January, 2021

I started in the industry about five years ago. I graduated from Vanderbilt University with a Bachelor of Arts degree. And shortly thereafter, I joined at a company that was in the refrigerant software space, and I started there actually as a Policy Analyst analyzing HVACR and refrigerant regulations. And so, as you might guess, that gave me a strong foundation of knowledge and expertise to build my career upon; I became aware of the most important issues facing the industry.

Today, I am a Content Strategist at Trakref, which is a refrigerant management software company. It’s a B2B SaaS solution. I am basically managing the marketing and public affairs as well as performing policy analysis work.  

When it comes to the challenges women in the sector face, whether you’re in the trade, or kind of working more on the other side of things, like in the office, I think, across the board, women experience challenges in terms of working in a male-dominated industry. I think, the most difficult thing that I experienced when I first started my career was, you know, I am sitting in a room and there’s maybe like, 20 men, and there’s like, a couple women, and it’s pretty hard.

Follow Elizabeth on Instagram @refrigerant365
Pictures by @Charlesparkss

You kind of question yourself, and you even doubt yourself because the gender ratio is so skewed in one direction. But after you overcome that doubt, that is when the real window of opportunity opens. And that was sort of the hurdle for me at least.

I personally overcame that challenge by just trusting myself and trusting that I know what I am talking about, by receiving feedback, by writing articles for company blogs and industry magazines (that others in the industry now reference), and by communicating with various people out in the field. I have had the chance to work with industry stakeholders at all levels, including various HVAC technicians as well as those at the C-suite level, and they really appreciate the insights that I offer and so over time, I got rid of that personal doubt.

Nevertheless, if you have a more balanced gender ratio, I think you can have a more positive work environment with a lot more creativity in terms of the solutions. Today, in the United States, there is a 45 to one ratio of a male to female among HVAC technicians. So, yeah, it is quite staggering. And, when you look at it from another perspective, it is an older workforce currently. So, there is a lot of opportunity for people that are young to enter the field now, because there is going to be quite the shortage in HVACR labor in the coming years. And this disparity in ratio is a result of the lack of awareness. They don’t tend to tell you when you start your elementary school years, hey go into trade in HVACR if you are a girl. It is kind of more of a grungy type of thing, or there’s that kind of bias going on, in terms of just societal thinking. But also, I think it is going back to that personal doubt part. Because of the historic gap many ladies will question if they can get into a sector like this and become successful. In the B2B HVACR buying process though, I would say there are more women decision makers nowadays. So that’s good.  

One important initiative at the national level is the organization Women in HVACR, which seeks to connect women with other women growing their careers in the industry.

Working in this industry gives me a greater awareness of just how much of modern life depends on properly functioning heating and cooling equipment. I am also particularly fascinated by how the environmental, health, and safety aspects of a building are so closely connected to its HVAC system. So wherever I go, I am always looking at what type of refrigerant is used in a system, how it is set up in the facility and such. I think that is very interesting. And I am also very interested in indoor air quality and things of that nature. I have invested in several air filtration systems myself. And so, I am just continuously learning about HVACR and refrigerant going forward. And that is what excites me about my professional journey every day when I wake up.

In fact, having spent nearly the past half-decade in the HVACR industry doing policy analysis and communications, I have launched a new initiative, which curates the latest HVACR and refrigerant insights from around the globe, 365. My goal is for it to become a central hub of the best curated HVACR and refrigerant news and insights.

In essence, Refrigerant365 is my way of saying goodbye to the self-doubt that I once had in the onset of my career, and hello to the new journey that awaits after breaking free of that doubt.  Ultimately, I hope I inspire other women in this industry to take part and have a voice. My two cents to ladies out there is study hard. And believe in yourself. By doing these two things, I think we will see the ratio of 45 to one changing for the better.