Celebrating Women in the Trades 2019

Women make up a small—but fast-growing—segment of home service professionals. ServiceTitan spoke to a few of them about their expanding role in the industry.

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Women have been an integral part of our workforce for quite some time now, but the trades is still one area where they’re underrepresented. Recent numbers put the percentage of female workers in the U.S. workforce at 47 percent. Yet, it's estimated that only about 1.4 percent of plumbers and pipefitters are women—and that only one percent of HVAC and refrigeration workers are women, as well.

Because ServiceTitan works with thousands of contractors and home service shops, we have the privilege of working with some of the prominent and top performing women in the industry. We asked owners, administrators, technicians, and managers across the plumbing, HVAC, electrical, and garage door repair industries to talk about their experience as a woman in the trades and give advice to women considering these professions. Here’s what they said:

What’s it like to be a woman in the trades?

Part of the reason we associate men with the home services is because we assume that they’re more suited for the work. When we spoke with women working in the home services, however, we found professionals who not only seemed to be in their element, but could even defy expectations in a way that benefits both shops and homeowners.

“It is challenging and rewarding. I love being able to make customers smile, to provide them with an expert they can depend on when needed, and the ability to earn their business for life.

You learn many skills very few people have. For example, I know how to work on swamp coolers, toilets, commercial vehicles, install HVAC and plumbing, marketing for a growing business, and many other skills associated with this trade.”

- Vanessa Gonzales, Chief Administrative Officer at Albuquerque Plumbing, Heating & Cooling, Albuquerque, NM

“I am very proud to work with an excellent team of technicians, installers, salesman, support staff, managers, and ownership. Precision has provided me with all the support and training to be successful. It’s rare to work with a team who truly want all their employees to succeed.”

- CJ Merkel, Garage Door Sales and Service Technician at Precision Garage Door, Pittsburgh, PA

"It's definitely a privilege to do work in this kind of trade that is, in fact, pretty much always performed by men. It's also a benefit because being a woman in Sarasota, Florida doing plumbing, I have a lot of elderly women to service and they say they feel so much more comfortable with a woman coming into their home to service them.”

- Alayna Chavez, Plumber at CoolToday, Sarasota, FL

“There have been more and more women in trades in the last 5-10 years. Years ago, I feel, you had to prove yourself as more knowledgeable to be welcomed into conversations. It is becoming more the norm so more acceptable. Now we are welcomed into the conversation and not assumed we don’t know what we are talking about.

Also, 83% of the homeowners the technicians are dealing with on a call are women. This allows us to give them that perspective and training before they are in the situation.”

- Kathy Nielsen, Owner and Consultant at Operations Excellence LLC, Adel, IA

What are the challenges women face in the home services?

Breaking barriers always comes with challenges. Women working in the home services told us about the hurdles they faced as they came into their role as a tradesperson and asserted their role as a capable professional at their company.

“The trades are still very male-dominated. Overcoming this mentality can be a challenge in many fields, not just the trades. I have overcome this by being smart and forward thinking, keeping myself informed by reading articles, attending training, and staying up to date on technology. I am fortunate that my company employs men and women equally and we have women who also work in the field.”

- Dawn Wasicek, Inside Sales at McCullough Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc., Austin, TX

"At times, it can be challenging due to preconceived perceptions of who the customer expects to show up to service their garage door. I enjoy the positive reaction I get from customers that a woman is here to repair their door or opener."

- CJ Merkel, Garage Door Sales and Service Technician at Precision Garage Door, Pittsburgh, PA

“Many assume and doubt your knowledge immediately regarding the trade/industry. Men in the field automatically assume that as a woman you do not know how to do the things that they know how to do. In retrospect, a drill is going to work the same way no matter whose hands are hitting the button to make it work.

I believe the biggest challenge comes from a leadership perspective. Coming into an industry full of men and having to delegate a task, or in a ServiceTitan standpoint, helping them adapt to change, train them on how to sell from their tablets, or even close out jobs that they have been doing way longer than you have even been with the company is a mental struggle.

Overcoming this challenge wasn’t hard. I just have to remind myself to stay humble, and know my professional worth and continue to do what I do best, LEAD!”

- Kayla Pyles, Marketing Director, Customer Service Representative at Altman’s Cooling & Heating, Titusville, FL

“Every day I'm faced with a new challenge, a new customer, and a new situation. I have had one customer who didn't accept me to do the work of a ‘man's job’ (setting a toilet). So I gave him what he wanted and let him have another plumber come out who was a man to do the job.

Let's just say my technician stood up for me when the customer stated how the company shouldn't send a woman out to set a heavy toilet. My technician told the customer, ‘She can install heaters, I'm sure a toilet is nothing to her.’

[But] I don't feel judged whatsoever. Even at the beginning of plumbing school, every male plumber I meet gives me praises for doing such hard work and seeing it in me that I love the work. Nothing holds me back from learning something new everyday.”

- Alayna Chavez, PlumberCoolToday, Sarasota, FL

How can more women get involved in the trades?

Why should women seriously consider the trades as a vocation? One reason is because the trades are currently facing a staffing crisis. Most industry experts agree that—with a coming wave of retirements and waning enthusiasm in the trades among young people—businesses will have to look outside what may be considered traditional candidates for recruitment. This includes women.

Here’s what current tradeswomen had to say about what they’d tell young women today who had an interest in joining the industry:

"If you have common sense and are willing to work hard, then go for it! With the lack of women in the trades, women have even a larger opportunity to have a great career. Additional advice would be to be confident and ask for what you deserve!"

- Leila Panno, Purchasing Manager at Hartlaub Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Electric, New Berlin, WI

"One: Don’t be afraid or intimidated because you don’t have trade knowledge. You don’t have to have technical skills to be a great manager and leader. Two: Take time to really dig into yourself. I use the Innermetrix assessment and have for years. Be really aware of what you do well, what you don’t do well, BE OK WITH IT, and learn that of those around you. Hire those that compliment what you are wired to do."

- Kathy Nielsen, Owner and Consultant at Operations Excellence LLC, Adel, IA

“The best thing a woman can do is to start, be prepared to show up and continuously work hard. Never stop learning. There are trade schools, scholarships, and apprenticeship programs all over the country.

Our industry is always evolving to keep up with technology and the environment. All of the code books can be found online too.”

- Vanessa Gonzales, Chief Administrative OfficerAlbuquerque Plumbing, Heating & Cooling, Albuquerque, NM

“Never to give up and to never let some tell you, you can't do the job... Don't think you're any less than the plumber in front of you or next to you. There’s nothing wrong with being a blue collar babe!”

- Alayna Chavez, Plumber at CoolToday, Sarasota, FL

Looking Ahead

It’s 2019 and, yes, we still often assume that plumbers, electricians, and HVAC technicians will be men when they show up on our doorstep. However, think about how much of this industry has changed just over the last few years. How advanced solutions for homeowners have become and how tech-driven many of the offered services now are. It only stands to reason that the pool of professionals that make up America's tradespeople will continue to evolve, as well.

At the close of Women's History Month 2019, ServiceTitan is proud to shine a light of just a few of the many incredible and hardworking women whose contributions to the home services are only beginning to garner the recognition they deserve. It's our hope that this industry continues to grow, become more inclusive, and–as a result–thrive in all of our communities.

Perhaps Alayna Chavez of CoolToday said it best: "Together, we can all get the job done."

ServiceTitan is the leading software solution for professionals in the HVAC, electrical, plumbing, and garage door repair industries. Not only is our cloud-enabled, mobile platform being used by tens of thousands of technicians nationwide—it's also helped close more than $5.1 billion in sales, as well. For more information on how ServiceTitan's comprehensive solution can help your company both in the office and out in the field, request a demo today!

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