In 2017, women made up 47 percent of the workforce; only 2 percent are employed in the HVAC industry — one that is showing tremendous job growth, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In addition, a large number of HVAC-skilled trades workers are reaching retirement age, which is creating a shortage of qualified technicians. This proves that now more than ever before, the future in HVAC needs women to fill the job shortage caused by increased business and a dwindling workforce.

The possibilities of HVAC opportunities are countless — especially for women. According to Forbes magazine, women in business are admired for being themselves, being aboveboard and building relationships. Because women have well-developed communication skills, they have an advantage over men when it comes to connecting with customers. That can come in handy in HVAC-skilled trades, which have traditionally been male-dominated.

The tides are beginning to turn, and women are choosing HVAC as a career option. Eight years ago, only 0.6 percent of the HVAC workforce was female. In 2018, that number has tripled. Some women have taken over family HVAC businesses, learning as they go. Others, like Yolanda “Yoyo” Rodriguez of Chicago, just knew HVAC was the right choice.

No dolls for her

While most girls her age were playing with dolls, Rodriguez would try to figure out how things worked by pulling them apart and putting them back together. As she got older, she would help her grandfather, a Chicago landlord, with maintenance projects. “He taught me how to put up drywall, how to do floors, how to do plaster, how to do the piping and plumbing, and how to pretty much look at the HVAC side,” she says.

Rodriguez chose HVAC as a career option and graduated from Coyne College in Chicago. Today, she works for a company that sets up PLC (programmable logic controller) integration systems. Although she didn’t learn PLCs at Coyne, she says, “The HVAC side applies to it because you have to know how everything functions — the sequences of operations to make sure everything is flowing properly.”

From HVAC technician to HVAC company owner

Sandra Garza has shown that women can not only be successful business owners, but successful HVAC business owners. The sole female in HVAC graduating class in 1996, Garza now stands at the helm of SG Heating & Cooling Services in Oak Lawn, Illinois, a storefront business that focuses on third-party warranties. She saw a growing trend in the industry, and because she already knew appliances, was able to make that leap. “In a period of one year, I tripled my business,” she says. “I couldn’t handle it all on my own.” She needed to hire two secretaries and four HVAC technicians.

Women as visionaries

Being skilled in traditional HVAC — installing, servicing, repairing and maintaining the equipment — can lead to related industries. Garza tapped into the third-party warranty side of things, but others are expanding into sales, distribution, leadership and even into related fields like electrical and plumbing.

Yoyo Rodriguez hasn’t been in HVAC all that long, but she has big plans for her future. Her “grand plan” is to own farm land to grow organic crops that she can use in her own restaurant and grocery story. HVAC plays a big role. Rodriguez says she could learn to grow plants using solar panels, wind and greenhouses, and then transport food to poorer areas of the country. “With my HVAC background, I can keep the produce fresh still while it’s being sent,” she explains.

Women of HVAC as advocate

Although HVAC opportunities are available for women, it never hurts to have someone advocating on their behalf. Women of HVAC brings awareness of the need for women in the field, showcases those who are already HVAC professionals and provides women with the necessary tools to begin their careers in HVAC-skilled trades. Although the increasing need for technicians and installers is worrisome for the industry, it’s good for women who are discovering that they can reap the benefits: steady work, high wages and countless opportunities. WomenofHVAC.Org can help women find schools that offer HVAC training and provide resources, opportunities and support for those already in the field.