To Glass Ceilings And Those Who Lend Us Their Hammers

This tech tip was written by Jennifer Manzo, an HVAC technician and the founder of the HVA-Chicks coalition, which offers tech support and training as well as resources for women in the industry. She was one of our panelists on this year's Women's Panel at the symposium and was recently featured on a livestream and podcast, which you can listen to HERE. You can find her on social media as @HVAChicksjennifer. Thanks, Jennifer!


The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of events for many of us in the HVAC/R industry. I’ve been trying to write my first article throughout this time and will admit I have struggled. Writing has always been a passion of mine and usually something that comes easily to me, but this article needed to be different. I told myself the perfect topic would present itself, and just as I was beginning to worry, that moment hit me like a pipe wrench on an icy morning… in the parking lot of Kalos Services.

I came to recognize a common theme during this event season: The women of this industry are shaking the very foundation on which we stand in all the best ways.

I was fortunate enough to sit on a panel of incredibly decorated yet equally humble women twice in the same month, having hard conversations about what it means for us to be here and why we choose to fight each day to be part of—and excel in—this male-dominated industry. On both occasions, I looked to my left and my right and saw the beautiful faces of my trade sisters and heard honesty and resilience pour out of their mouths in a way that our foremothers of decades past would have only dreamed of.

They spoke with such bravery and delivered their (sometimes differing) messages with professionalism and pride, and yet it cut me to feel their pain. The same pain I’ve felt so many times of feeling like outsiders, being told we were less than or knowing our work would never be more important than our gender. In that seat, I couldn’t help but feel a shift in energy I’d not felt before. We’ve all done this before, so why did this feel so different?

Here's where I rock the boat: The beauty in those moments I cannot attribute only to the women on stage but also to the reactions of our mostly male audience. 

During the podcast, I saw moderator Matt Bruner listen intently and even struggle with wrapping his mind around the answers to his very own questions. I saw men in the chat compliment a bunch of HVAC gals for a job well done, support us so fiercely against negativity, and truly accept us as their own.

During the live panel at Kalos, I was blown away by the incredibly deep questions, comments, and anecdotes that my male counterparts were so easily ready to give. When Don Gillis said to a room full of people that he had been wrong to keep his wife off of job sites and speak of his admiration for her hard work, I was stopped dead in my tracks and forced to rethink a man’s ability to grow! Looking around this room, I realized instantly that even though we were there to teach about the needs of women in trades, I was learning far more about the human ability to evolve. It occurred to me for the first time in my career that maybe we as women are not just tolerated but embraced in this community and that if we fail to celebrate that victory, we are letting our allies and ourselves down! These men aren’t standing on those glass ceilings—they’re giving us a boost and lending us their hammers! 

This article had to mean something. It had to matter, and I can only hope that I’ve done justice in conveying the absolute force that the men and women of this industry can become—together. Change is happening, and there’s so much more work that needs to be done when it comes to women in the HVAC industry, but this time, we won’t be doing that work alone.

 —Jennifer Manzo

P.S. — ESCO Institute has also hosted some roundtable discussions about women in HVAC on the HVACR Learning Network. You can watch the roundtable with Ruth King, Lori Tschohl, and Laurelyn Arriaga HERE and the discussion with Sarah Hammond, Erica Leonor, and Angie Snow HERE.

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