“Lend a hand, encourage them, give them a push where you can. It does nothing for you, or them, or the future of women in the trades if we don’t empower each other.“
What made you interested into getting into your field?
On a whim, entered the OYAP program for plumbing, and once I was hired as an apprentice, the company I worked for also did heating and air conditioning and I found my passion in HVAC repair and installation.
What do you love about your field?
I fell in love with the feelings of accomplishment and pride when you finish a job and it looks amazing and knowing you’ve created, installed or fixed something for people especially as an essential service such as restoring heat for a building complex or hot water in an old age home etc. I love the challenge. Every day I attend anywhere between 4-10 service calls for no heat or no hot water, and rarely are two situations the same. There’s a lot of diagnostics that has to be done before you even commence repairs. Every day is different. Mostly, though, the satisfaction I mentioned earlier of fixing a component of a heating system, or installing a new furnace or boiler to get a homeowner their heating back on. I do my absolute best to do a great job and always clean up after myself, very thorough in my explanation of how homeowners can prevent further issues or how to use their new equipment; and all these things lead to happy clients who are proud of the work completed and happy with the results. I don’t think there is a greater feeling than appreciation!
What types of challenges have you faced as a women and how have you overcome them?
I can honestly say I’ve never been to a single job without being doubted at first glance. I arrive on the job site for no heat or no hot water or even for an installation, and I get looked over, and interrogated with questions that you would never ask a man who comes to your house for service. “Oh wow, a woman in HVAC! How long have you been in the trade?” Would you ask a male tradesperson at your door? And then the surprise of my response that it’s been 11 years provokes the questions that always follow which continue to force the idea of doubt. “Did you get into this trade because of your father? Does he own the business?” No, he’s a drywall taper.
The absolute worst, is when I have an apprentice that I’m training, who usually doesn’t know much of anything yet, and the homeowners will look right over me and direct their questions to him. But my response to all of it, is that I answer them politely, smile, and then complete my work to my best ability. I always clean up my work area, and I’m polite and informative. And then low and behold, 9 out of 10 times, they’ll even ask for me to be their repeat technician for any future calls, or they’ll ask for my personal business card despite the initial immense cloud of doubt when I arrived. So, basically, I have to prove myself at every single job I go to which is unfair, but I proudly and gladly prove every one of them wrong. It’s the unfortunate reality we live in today & Hopefully this world will progress in believing woman are just as competent as men.
Is there any advice you would give to women entering the field?
You will face so much adversity, discrimination, doubt, inequality, and mostly; the disrespect from your male peers. But, if you’re good at what you do, as daunting as it is to constantly have to prove yourself, do it. Grow a tough skin for the comments and remarks you’ll hear and learn to give it right back. Be quick witted but with respect, of course, and don’t allow anyone to disrespect you. The greatest silencer is showing your workmanship and skills and dominating all that you do. Keep striving, keep learning, keep advancing in your trade and in your training/education so you can always be the best candidate for the job. You’re always going to have to prove yourself so it definitely helps when you have your licenses and training behind you. Is there anything else you’d like to share?Always look out for other women in your trade or other tradeswomen in general. Don’t forget where you came from and all the struggle you had to experience to get there. Putting each other down or ignoring what you may think are silly questions, can deter them from continuing their path. So lend a hand, encourage them, give them a push where you can. It does nothing for you, or them, or the future of women in the trades if we don’t empower each other.