Why aren’t there more females in the HVAC/sheet metal industry?

I've written about the lack of women in the industry several times. The latest government figures say about 9 percent of construction workers are women — a number that has been static for years. Among those in the sheet metal or HVAC industry, it’s a little over 2 percent.

I’ve been thinking about the issue lately, as the “#MeToo” movement has enveloped politics and popular culture. From corporate boardrooms to Hollywood movie sets, sexual harassment in the workplace has become a topic of discussion and debate.

But one place it hasn’t come up as much is in the construction industry. Perhaps that’s not surprising, with the industry’s overwhelmingly male demographic. The industry has never been one known as being welcoming to women.

But an event I attended earlier this month near Orlando, Florida, makes me think that may be starting to change. The Sheet Metal Workers union and the Sheet Metal and Air-Conditioning Contractors’ National Association held Partners in Progress, a joint event focusing on business issues and boosting market share for members.

Among the more popular sessions was a panel discussion on attracting women and minorities to the sheet metal industry. The panelists, who included a training center administrator, a union business manager, the owner of a sheet metal firm and an association executive, were all women. Most had to endure discrimination on the way to their current positions, but many said the industry is becoming more inclusive.

If you’re a woman in the sheet metal industry, what’s your experience been like?