Meet Lauren, a strong link in a big chain of support for women in HVACR

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Lauren Roberts, CEO of CFM Distributors. President of Women in HVACR organization.

Kansas City, MO – March, 2021

I joined Women in HVACR in 2016 as a general member and found a lot of great benefits out of connecting with other women in the industry and learning about the mentoring, networking, and education opportunities that the organization provides.

Follow Women in HVACR @womeninhvacr
Photos by @tarmineguichette

At the end of 2016 I was asked to join the board of directors for WHVACR and so as of 2017 I started serving in the board. Mostly in the sponsorship committee, working with a lot of our sponsors and companies, manufactures within the HVAC industry and getting their support to build upon the member benefits that we offer.

I served in the board in 2017 and last year in 2020 I served as the vice-president and now I am serving as the president of the organization.

We started in 2002 so we are in our 18th year and we are picking up a lot of members and growing every year. We have several hundreds of active members now and up to around 600 in our distribution list who have some involvement in our organization.

Picture of Lauren sitting in the middle of a long empty table.

This year we are focused on helping members generally bounce-back the effects of the pandemic that we all experienced in 2020. We are also very focused on expanding our ambassador program, which is a program where we created turnkey tools in presentations to help volunteer ambassadors take and go out to highs school, trade schools, elementary schools, career fairs, even girls scout troops and talk about all the different opportunities for women in our industry but also for anyone in our industry. That is one of our focuses.

Mentorship is a great program we offer; we have over a hundred mentors and mentees paired up with different women throughout our organization and we invite anybody with any amount of experience in the industry or any age to be a mentor and everybody can be a mentee because there is always something to learn and get better at. So, we find our mentors learn just as much as our mentees.

Picture of Laure. She is typing on her computer keyboard.

Those are two main focus areas. We hope to have at least one ambassador in every state in the US by the end of the year. Currently we have around 25 nationwide so we have 25 to go but with travel restrictions opening back up as we move through the pandemic, we think we can have some growth there so people can get back there in those events and talk about the organization.

As for the memberships, we are a unique organization in our industry. We have members from all different aspects of the industry. We have manufacturer members, we have wholesalers like myself, and in different positions in those companies; from leadership, sales, marketing to technical support, warehouse workers and then we have a lot of contractor members; women who are technicians out in the field, women who are office managers, contractor owners. Then we have engineer members, manufacturer reps, consultants… so we cover the whole range. Some of our peer associations in our industry cover just one sector of just manufacturers or just wholesalers. So, we are unique in that way.

Picture of CFM Distributors company building.

I think we need awareness of all the great opportunities there are in our industry for women. May times people think of the HVAC industry as the dirty job where you have to get your hands dirty working in the field, and they don’t realize that there are a lot of jobs like those I mentioned earlier, leadership, accounting, sales, marketing, etc. all kinds of fields that are less out in the field, less dirty jobs but really professional jobs. We need to give that awareness, that is still an obstacle for us.

As time goes on women are treated more fairly. But having women respected and treated equally as our male counterparts is important and giving women the recognition to know that they are bringing a different viewpoint to the table is very crucial.

At least about a year ago the statistics I looked up at was, of the overall global population the women made 51%, so, as a workforce and as our industry if we are ignoring women as opportunities to hire and bring into our industry, we are all making a major mistake, we need to make our industry more attractive for all.

Picture of Lauren, she is standing between two York HVAC units.

As members of WHVACR we are so very different in many ways, the main thing we have in common is that we are all female and we are all trying to make this work as a career opportunity for us. Once we get here, many of us are finding that it is a supporting environment for women.

We have a lot of membership interactions and networking through our social media platforms and at our live in-person events and in some virtual meetings where we have a nice support network for women to give them the resources that they need, the information that they need to overcome the obstacles that they may face.

We are called Women in the HVACR, but we have male members and we have had a lot of male sponsors that have been critical for our success, so that’s important to mention.

We have strong-willed, high-power women in our organization both serving in the board and within the membership and its definitely not a challenge to work amongst each other, we are all on it for the same reasons and trying to help each other grow. I think we are focused on our mission of helping women come into the industry and helping them grow in the industry through the networking, mentoring and education opportunities.

Lauren is smiling at the camera.

I would say that a fairly long-standing male perspective is that, especially, when it comes to technical work that women might not be as savvy as they are in the field, solving problems and troubleshooting and maybe we can’t lift as much weight like a furnace or an air conditioner might be hard for us to transport. But a lot of female technicians in the industry that I know are perfectly capable of doing all of that, we just have to continually work a little harder to prove that we can do it too.

However, we welcome the support of both males and females into our organization. We just want to make sure our industry is aware of our organization and we focus on bringing in all types of people. There was a need for this organization in 2002 for some reasons and some of the reasons are still there and as common as we had back then, but we have also grown past a lot of those gender biases and we are just working towards the common goals in the industry now, providing more bandwidth along with what the other associations that we all know about with men and women are working on.

I know a lot of women who have had success in engineering, software, and control side of our business when it comes to the internet of things and the invention of products that some of our major manufacturers are using, so, women have played a big role in the development of new technologies for our industry and that alone just provides many more opportunities for women to continue to thrive in our sector.

Visit the Women in HVACR website