A few years back, I wrote a column about "Women in the Hvac Industry." This year, I have noticed a few articles being published about introducing engineering to girls and women who have succeeded in engineering, construction and facility management, etc. Still, there continues to be a void in this industry both on the consulting side, as well as the operation side of the building industry. With engineering firms, builders, and support services struggling to find exceptional people for their respective companies, there seems to be an untapped resource remaining for the hvac industry.

While women are now working their way up the ladder of success, the following opportunities are still looking for "a few good men AND WOMEN." I look at our own company and see that half the success of our business has been through the performance of women in finance, project and program management, engineering, facility support, senior staff, and corporate management.

Finance. We have seen computer software influence our business in so many ways, beginning with the company's finances. It takes a special, persistent person to take on this task as we frequently find the software producers using clients as "guinea pigs" by issuing software before it is ready. No engineering degree or contractor license automatically qualifies a person to manage the financials of consulting, construction, and operational budgets.

Project and program management. On project-specific jobs, an exceptional manager orchestrating the process requires both good communication skills and time management skills. As design-build transitions to program management services, the prerequisite for being responsible and in charge, in my opinion, is that the person sees the "big picture" while also managing the "details." For the experienced construction project manager, this is a culture change that few are able to quickly adapt. Old habits are tough to break and this new breed of manager needs to be able to "think outside the box," unhindered by past routines and attitudes.

Engineering. This consulting side of the building services industry seems to be struggling to entice men and women alike. I have seen more women making it into the engineering community, but I find far fewer women candidates applying for engineering jobs when compared to the number of men applying for the same jobs.

Facility support. This role in the building owner management community is often filled by women with the title of property manger but not facility manager or facility engineer. The board at one small women's college has struggled to find female candidates to apply for positions in the capital project and technical areas of support services. Women can bring a new outlook to these positions if they go into this field.

Senior staff and corporate management. With an economy that is showing signs of a slowdown, this is the optimum time to find fresh ideas, new leadership, and the ability to manage "outside the box." Certainly in the male-dominated business that we function in, companies are going to need to focus on strategically planning their resources so that they will maintain the profit margins needed to continue to prosper. Success in the past 10 years doesn't necessarily imply the firm was well-managed. Leadership in the next 10 years, you can be assured, will require premier management.

I believe women have an opportunity to fill any of the roles noted above. More importantly, many of the new female candidates for these positions will bring a fresh outlook on how to get things done. This should benefit those companies striving to stay ahead of the competition, and it will definitely be necessary as the economy drives the market and the quality of the products delivered in the hvac industry. ES