The HVAC industry has long been a male dominated industry, with women accounting for only 1.7 percent of HVAC professionals in the United States according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In recent years, this has been slowly changing with many women going after careers in engineering. Women account for 14 percent of all engineers in the U.S., although this number isn't significant, it is much greater than the 1.7 percent in HVAC and is making an impact. In many engineering disciplines, the percentages of women in the field is actually much higher, for example, industrial engineers (20.3%) and chemical engineers (20.1%).
This data causes questioning as to why women are choosing careers in HVAC, but many tend to fall into the position. Julie Decker, incoming president of Women in HVACR, explained in an ACHR the News article, many women find themselves in the industry in ways they would have never expected.
So why are women at Daikin pursuing jobs within the HVAC industry? We spoke with five female engineers about being a woman in HVAC and what drew them to engineering.
Chiller Applications Engineer, Positive Displacement
Funny story is that I didn’t choose this industry. Oddly enough, it sort of chose me. It was my senior year of college and I didn’t have many opportunities until this position with Daikin Applied fell on my lap. It sounded like an interesting position (application engineer), and I loved the idea of being both social yet technical.
As a woman in this industry, I have the ability to showcase my skills and knowledge in a manner not all men might experience. Often times, when I walk into a meeting or a conference, I feel I’m identified first as a female before an HVAC professional. Once I start talking and presenting ideas, I can feel the attitude shift; I love that feeling of proving I am both a woman AND an HVAC professional. Being a woman doesn’t define my abilities, and I certainly don’t love having to feel like I must prove myself; however, when I do, I feel proud of my abilities to present the role females can and certainly do play in the industry.
Senior Sales Application Engineer
I actually come from a country that widely celebrates March 8 as International Women’s Day. I grew up in Ukraine and graduated from prestigious Kiev Polytechnic University, one of its early graduates being Igor Sikorsky, the father of the American helicopter. Both of my parents were engineers, so for me this was a natural choice, I just needed to decide what field to join: to be an electrical engineer like Dad or thermo-mechanical like Mom. I decided the latter and became a specialist in power boilers.
Having moved to US in 1992, I joined a Minnesota company making waste heat recovery boilers and spent 10 years being an application engineer. However, in 2003 I decided to change my field.
My attention was drawn to HVAC because of its vast applicability and demand. I thought HVAC was going to be easy to learn considering my background in thermal transfer and fluid mechanics, but it required much more! I learned a lot about fans, motors, compressors, and controls. My engineering vocabulary and horizon expanded greatly. There is never a dull moment in my new field and I am constantly learning new things.
One thing was a little disconcerting at first: when reps would call and hear a female voice, their first reaction would be: “Oh, sorry, I need a technical support group!” That would drive me nuts! I suppose the HVAC community is quite conservative and reps were not used to dealing with women engineers. This has been slowly changing; now, I have quite a few female reps and I really love working with them.
Judy Peters, PE LEED-AP BEMP
Energy Modeling Engineer
In graduate school for mechanical engineering, I worked as a research assistant for a professor specializing in computational fluid dynamics (CFD) for the HVAC industry. My master’s thesis centered on CFD and building energy modeling; subjects I grew to love and have used in industry ever since. As an energy modeling engineer at Daikin, I work with a great group of people and have the opportunity to contribute to global energy conservation through the promotion of Daikin’s highly energy efficient equipment. It is a pleasure to serve as a role model for the next generation of women considering a career in the HVAC industry.
My favorite part about my job is the creative problem solving. The HVAC industry is very complex and dynamic, I didn't realize how challenging and engaging it could be. Daikin did not hesitate in utilizing my engineering background. It is exciting to be in an environment that values my insights and has high expectations of me. I really love the challenge and always striving for innovative solutions.
Electrical Engineer, Controls
My interests in science are multidisciplinary and diverse. For someone who appreciates both pure science and the applications of theories, engineering is a natural career choice for me. New technologies and the optimization of current ones mean that learning never stops. I enjoy the many interesting projects that I have worked on at Daikin in testing, sustaining engineering, and R&D. The cross-disciplinary skills that I’ve acquired allow me to expand my technical role and pursue an engaging and fun career.