An issue that many trades, including HVAC and Plumbing, frequently run into is a lack of desire to advance alongside changes within the industry. Too many times we see seasoned technicians who mastered the trade the old fashioned way, and are heavily reluctant to change. Generally their reluctance resides in the thought process of “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” The problem with this mentality is that it does not allow an individual to improve past a certain level of skill set. Becoming complacent with results is a surefire way to ensure a technician will not continue to grow within the industry. Frequently, resistance from techs comes in the form of refusing to adapt to changes in technology, but it can also come in the form of resistance to non-typical employees. The most common being women who serve alongside men in the trades.
In the past, women who worked in HVAC and plumbing typically served as office staff – an integral part of many company’s business models. However, as time has continued on, a small portion of women have gravitated towards serving as technicians. In the last 10 years women who choose HVAC or plumbing as an occupation has hovered around 1-2% of the industries total workers. The lack of exponential growth may be a result of an old and quite outdated stigma that women do not belong and cannot perform at a high level working within the trades.
Proving The Doubters Wrong
Fortunately for the HVAC and plumbing industries, there is a group of determined, renegade women who are actively bucking the old fashion trends. Dani Edwards, Ashley Counts, and Bonnie Eversmeyer are all proud tradeswomen, who have first hand experience with individuals underestimating their abilities.
“I had one person call his job and tell them it was going to be a little bit longer, because the female tech was here,” Eversmeyer said, smirking with amusement. “I just smiled and grinned and got it done faster than any other time I have done it.”
It isn’t just customers who downplay the quality work performed by women in the trades. Ashley Counts recalled past employers who doubted whether she could perform well on the job.
“Being a woman, my first two companies didn’t want to take me seriously. It was kind of a just show your face situation, and I am not okay with that, so I left. What I like about my current job is that they treat me like anybody else who works here. They don’t just look past me, because I have long hair and wear makeup. So, that’s definitely a nice change for me.
Receiving Positive Feedback
All three women say they receive plenty of mixed reactions when they reveal their professions.
“It’s fun! It’s usually shock,” said Eversmeyer. “I’ve been asked do you like what you do – of course I do, ya know!”
Counts shared her sentiment. “Most of the time people can’t believe that a woman is doing this. I get a lot of positive feedback. We had to stop at Home Depot the other day. I got stopped by a gentleman and he was ‘like ‘That’s awesome! Are there a lot of women in the trades?’ and I told him there are a few. But he was super excited!”
Positive reactions tend to outweigh the detractors, and customer’s feedback drives these women to perform at a very high level.
Dani Edwards believes that there is unique comfortability that women can bring into a customers home that is hard for her male counterparts to duplicate.
“Everyone has a little bit of stress when it comes to inviting a stranger into their home and dealing with money, repairs, and not really understand what’s going on, so I think sometimes it puts their mind at ease, especially women” Edwards continued, “There is a level of trust that is there from the beginning, which allows me to get to know them a little bit better, and they get to know me as well. That helps to build the relationship with the customer right away.”
Getting Into The Trades
Establishing strong relationships with her customer’s is something Edwards has been doing since she began doing plumbing work at age 12 with her father.
“It started out as bonding time.” Edwards said. “I was with my dad doing small jobs. He liked to help people out that couldn’t afford to do larger jobs. So, he would set them up through his company as side jobs, and I would work with him helping them out.”
Unlike Edwards, Count’s and Eversmeyer’s journeys into the trades took a different route.
“I actually considered carpentry,” Counts recalled. “I’ve always liked labor work. I got a phone call from a school offering this opportunity, so I took it, and I could not be happier with it.”
Eversmeyer was also given the opportunity to go back to school and knew going into a trade was a great option for her.
“I had to make the decision of what to go back to school for, I was able to meet with the instructor with the HVAC program at East Central College, and he was very determined to get me to come on board.”
She continued, “ He already had a female tech that was in her second semester at the time. So, I thought about becoming a diesel mechanic, because I already worked in the auto mechanic trade, and had a background. I don’t really like working on cars though, so I figured that wasn’t the best idea. So, I decided to go with HVAC. I spent a lot of time with my dad, so he instilled in me to work hard, and I enjoy this!”
Encouraging Future Technicians
Enjoyment of their craft is something all three women echoed when describing their careers, and would all highly recommend young women to go into the trades.
“Do it!” Counts said proudly.
“I have always thrived on the opportunity of people telling me I can’t do something. It makes me want to do it more. And as long as you have the motivation and self drive, you can do whatever you want. You’re going to hit bumps in the road no matter what. It doesn’t matter where you are. So, if a woman wants to do it, I say do it! There is nothing stopping you but yourself.”
The positivity women bring to the industry is contagious. Women who work in the HVAC and plumbing industries have an incredibly unique perspective, and boast infectious, can-do attitudes. It is imperative, that as these industries continue to evolve, those within them realize the importance of women and the strengths they bring to a business and the industry as a whole.