Women Have the Skill Set to Succeed in the Industry

July 20, 2015
The first answer to the question of why women should enter this industry is opportunity and money.   Next, this industry needs women. What we bring is an ability to listen, to translate technical language into consumer language, to recognize needs and provide solutions. 
Photo: iStock/ThinkStock.

How exciting to be asked to write an article on why women should consider the HVACR Hydronics Industry! I like many people (not just women but men as well) stumbled into this industry. Having taught high school English for four years, I didn’t even know an industry such as ours existed. 

And if I had any conscious recognition of it, my assumption would have been that it was for engineers or people who wanted to work on the air conditioner or heater. (My Texas upbringing is showing.)

The point being is that 30 years ago, upon my entry into HVACR, we were an invisible industry and today we still remain so to most young people — men or women. So for career opportunities, the industry is not on the radar. And this is in spite of the fact that states that an HVAC mechanic is one of the top 10 highest paying two-year degree opportunities.

So the first answer to the question of why women should enter this industry is opportunity and money.  With the shortage of skilled application and mechanical engineers, technicians and plumbers, our industry will continue to require more people for the foreseeable future and it is an industry recognized to pay well. Thus, the opportunities for women are abundant.

Next, this industry needs women. What we bring is an ability to listen, to translate technical language into consumer language, to recognize needs and provide solutions. When I entered the industry, I didn’t know the difference between a heater, a standard furnace, a wall furnace or a floor furnace. Yet, I was hired to write and edit training materials.

I didn’t know the technical jargon, but I did know how to communicate and how to explain technical information in a way that students learning the industry could grasp.

This is a skill that many women have based on our willingness to ask questions and or for clarification when we don’t understand. I never encountered anyone who wasn’t willing to help me learn the technical aspects of the industry.

This industry also needs motivators; another role which women are good at. We long ago learned how to motivate siblings, our children, spouses and employees to reach for more, to accomplish things they didn’t always know they were capable of. In one of my first major career promotions, I had to create a department that had never existed in the company before.

I had to create goals, hire people to accomplish these goals and motivate them when we were all tired and somewhat despondent. Women do these types of activities in their everyday lives, so why not apply these same skills in an industry that desperately needs them.

Focus and priorities are often missing elements in many businesses. HVACR businesses have a tendency to run in one direction for a while and then an opportunity, sometimes good, but often not, causes the company to change course and move in another direction without a lot of analysis or forethought on whether the company and the skill sets of the employees are ready for the new course of action. 

Yes, change is often necessary, but once again, I think women bring clarity of purpose and focus on priorities. We have had a great deal of practice organizing and staying focused on what needs to be accomplished today, this week and this month, both at work and at home.

Many times in my career in the industry, I have been tempted or even on occasion altered my focus, only eventually to realize that my skill sets and my personal satisfaction required me to be in the role of educating and helping others realize their potential in their jobs or their businesses. I think women bring that ability to the companies that they work for or the companies that they own.

Yes, I said own. Some of the most successful women I know own HVACR businesses. They bring their skills of organization, prioritization, motivation and genuine care and concern for employees and customers to their businesses. No wonder women owners are so successful.

One of the new buzz words in the world of business is “gamification.” So many young people have grown up playing games on their computers and Internet that the concept has carried over into the business world. The younger generation wants to like where she or he works.

They want to have fun at work. And who better than a woman to understand how much more effective and efficient people are if you work seems like fun. (If you question this logic, just watch the next time a Mom gets toys cleaned up with a timed race.) 

I always understood the importance of making work fun. At one point, in my career, I had a department of 80 people and once a quarter, we organized a “fun day.” One time we went bowling at 2:00 in the afternoon. Another time we had a road rally with clues. Work for all of us can sometimes be drudgery, so from time to time do something fun and let women help you with that.

Yes, I stumbled into this industry, but don’t let my mistake become yours. Instead seek out this industry if you are a woman or if you are looking for an employee, make sure you are including women in that search.

Vicki LaPlant graduated from Dallas Baptist University in 1975 with a B.A. in education and English. She taught English and speech in Cedar Hill High School from 1975–1979. Her career in the HVACR industry started in 1979 when she went to work for Lennox Industries. She wrote and edited technical training courses for heating and air conditioning contractors. In 1989, she became the Director of Dealer Development for Lennox. By 1993, Vicki became Vice-President of Marketing for Lennox. In 1995, Vicki started her own company – VLE Enterprises. The training and consulting company is primarily focused on providing training and consulting to the owners and employees of heating, air conditioning and plumbing contractors and distributors. She has written textbooks, created training aids and scripted videos to facilitate the learning process. These materials and aids are used in the training courses conducted by VLE Enterprises. Vicki is currently serving on the Editorial Advisory Board of Contracting Business Magazine.