Ruth King: 'Women are beginning to enter the industry through trade schools'
The co-founder of Women in HVACR – The Foundation reflects on the changing landscape for women in the skilled trades.
In 2002 Gwen Hostnik (Former Marketing Manager for Contracting Business) and I were at breakfast at the AHR event in Chicago. We were discussing the fact that there were very few women in the HVACR industry and decided that we should do something about it.
We wanted to spread the word that this is an industry for women and provide support and mentorship for women in the HVAC industry. I explained that, until the 1920s, secretaries were mostly men. The industry flipped from men to women and now most secretaries are women. I dreamed that we could do the same thing in the HVACR field.
I got the 501(c)(3) approved by the IRS and we were off and running. Dave Squires from Online-Access hosted the website.
The first presentation was a panel discussion at Comfortech. We had less than 25 people in the audience. For many years we had our meeting in conjunction with that event. Now Women in HVACR has a two-day annual meeting each year with more than 250 in attendance.
Fast forward to 2020 and there are more than 600 members and the organization is thriving. The Board of Directors is strong and has the foundation to continue for years to come.
Women are beginning to enter the industry through trade schools. Women are taking over their parents’ businesses. It is becoming more common for a women technician or installer to be a part of a company team.
Women have not reached a 50/50 male to female ratio in the HVAC industry. I am hopeful that will happen in the next 20 years.