Last month, I ran out of space before I could mention one thing that jumped out at me right away about our BAS conference in San Diego: at least eight women were in attendance. If it sounds weird for me to notice and be able to give a specific number, that just tells you how sad the gender "balance" generally is at these get-togethers, as anyone who's gone to many of them can attest.
In my moderate experience, if you see eight women in one HVAC-related room, it means one of two things:
Neither of these contingents involves much of the facilities or design engineering side of things, so I decided to look around for a little more information. The National Academy of Engineering says that only 20% of engineering degrees are earned by women, and worse, only 9% of American engineers are women. The NAE has an EngineerGirl website (www.engineergirl.org) that touts all sorts of engineering careers, but I didn't see a single HVAC mention. The "mechanical engineer" entry describes work on submarines, nanobots, and manufacturing facilities.
On the good side, the IEEE notes that its Women in Engineering Group experienced record growth this year, with membership rising to about 12,000. On the other side, in an interesting article titled, "Why Won't Jane Go To Engineering School," IEEE notes that "10 new dissertations are devoted to this subject every year," yet the stats regarding jobs and degrees stay stagnant or slip.
I mentioned this topic in one of my very first notes, and since then, a Women In HVACR group (www.womeninhvacr.org) has sprung up, which is good to see. I'm not on some mission to see an even split between the sexes in this field. I just don't believe the industry will flourish faster or better by saying, "First, let's lose almost half of our pool of intellectual power," and that's what the numbers suggest the bottom-line reality continues to be.
Of course, the meeting room in San Diego unscientifically suggests some kind of upswing, but then again, maybe most of them were owners or their representatives. And Realcomm's Jim Young used his enlightening keynote there to cite America's declining share of engineers vs. global competition. What can we do to attract the best and brightest, regardless of gender?