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Finding Your Next New Hire

Finding Your Next New Hire

By Julia Keen, P.E., Ph.D., HBDP; and Jessica Mangler, P.E.

From Insights, February 2021

Is your company burdened with too many qualified candidates when you have a job opening? Are you looking for tools to manage the overwhelming number of applicants?

If your answer is “no” and you are confronting the opposite issue – finding good qualified candidates – you are not alone. The shortage of qualified employee candidates is felt across the HVAC&R industry.

The HVAC&R industry needs to evolve beyond its traditional employee composition. A portion of this evolution is directly tied to creating a workplace that is more diverse and inclusive. Adjustments to the workforce composition result in improved business performance. A more diverse workforce brings a broader perspective of human experience, which in turn leads to generating more robust and creative solutions. One study showed that companies in the top quartile for both gender and ethnic diversity on executive teams were 25% to 36% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the lowest quartile for diversity.1

With increased diversity, our industry will be able to better communicate, more easily relate and develop stronger connections with our clients and building occupants/users. One step our industry can take is making adjustments to workplace culture that attract and allow retention of female employees.

It is difficult to quantify the current representation of women across the HVAC&R industry. There is no single path taken to an HVAC&R career; the industry encompasses many different roles: engineering, design, construction, technician/service, sales, etc. Therefore, exploring female representation from multiple perspectives is appropriate:

  1. The engineering workforce (all disciplines) is defined as approximately 13% women.2
  2. In 2017, women made up nearly 47% of the U.S. labor force. In HVAC&R, however, that number is significantly lower. Of the 448,000 Americans employed in 2017 as heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers, less than 2% of those were women, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.3
  3. Few demographics are currently available for ASHRAE membership apart from a voluntary identification of gender via prefix. As of November 2020, a little over 7% of the members self-identified as “Mrs.,” “Miss” or “Ms.” (out of 97% of the membership participation).4

Based on these statistics, women present an opportunity to fill employment gaps in HVAC&R. Beyond recruiting women to the industry, the issue also includes retaining women after entering the workplace. Our industry is not alone in the challenge of recruiting and retaining women. In the 1970s the number of women represented in non-HVAC&R professional roles was similar to the representation in HVAC&R today. Many of these professions acknowledged similar challenges and adopted solutions for meeting their employment shortages. Today, women represent 40% of physicians and surgeons, 35% of lawyers and more than 60% of accountants.2,5 Adjustments our industry can make to better serve not only female employees but all employees include:  

  • Training and education for enhancing employee skills and confidence;
  • Flexible working arrangements;
  • Family leave or sabbaticals afforded to all employees;
  • Management training that better prepares leaders for inclusiveness; and
  • Recognition to make employees feel appreciated and valued.

Many of these items have minor financial investments initially but provide the opportunity for substantial long-term financial gain. While increasing female representation in HVAC&R is much more involved than can be addressed in this short article, it can serve as the start of the conversation.

Greater representation of women within the workforce is financially rewarding for business, advantageous for the HVAC&R industry and good for our customers. This doesn’t just benefit women, but everyone and everything our industry touches. Now is the time to establish a “new normal” positioning ourselves for a more productive and efficient workforce. This is just the beginning of the discussion. Watch for future articles expanding on topics important to recruiting and retaining women in the HVAC&R industry.


1. McKinsey & Company. 2020. “Diversity Wins: How Inclusion Matters.” McKinsey & Company.

2. Roy, J. 2019. “Engineering by the Numbers.” American Society for Engineering Education.

3. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2021. “Labor Force Statistics From the Current Population Survey.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

4. ASHRAE Proactive Diversity Task Group. 2021. “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in ASHRAE Report to the Board of Directors.” ASHRAE.

5. American Bar Association. 2018. “A Current Glance at Women in the Law.” American Bar Association.

About the Authors:

Julia Keen, P.E., Ph.D., HBDP, Fellow ASHRAE, is a professor at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan.

Jessica Mangler, P.E., is a mechanical engineer at Affiliated Engineers, Inc., in Seattle.