Lady, Are Your Afraid of Spiders? HVAC Isn’t Just a Man’s World
Natural skill sets make women uniquely qualified for careers in the trades.
One thing that makes women superb HVAC technicians is their natural ability to really listen to the customer and hear all the problems they are having. “Women have a different way of thinking, we are compassionate toward the customers,” said Georgie Levari, a member of the HVAC union for more than 17 years. “Listening to the customer is 75 percent of the whole thing. It’s getting to the bottom of what is going on as part of your detective work to troubleshoot what is going on with their equipment.”
The trades are an excellent career choice for women for financial and practical reasons. “We definitely multitask and have a great deal of compassion, which is essential when dealing with customers,” she said. “The money’s good and there is job stability with benefits and retirement plans.”
Women’s stature and bone structure, which is typically smaller than men’s, has its advantages. “We can get to that small spot in the ceiling that nobody can reach,” she said. Women’s finer bone structure is also beneficial as their hands and fingers can fit into tighter spaces. It’s not all about physical strength, most of HVAC is using brain power to figure out the problem.”
“It’s a real sense of accomplishment when you do fix something,” she said. “As a journeyman with more than 10 years’ experience, I can fix it.”
Levari, who always wanted a career in the trades, has been with her contractor employer for 10 years. “As soon as I graduated high school, I slipped right in,” she said. “The job is mostly detective work, figuring things out, getting to the root of an issue, and ultimately repaired.”
“I wanted to be a plumber or pipefitter in our local union,” she said. “I went to vo-tech in high school for plumbing/HVAC with a higher interest in plumbing. I worked for a union contractor during high school as shop help. After that experience was a failed attempt to get hired by a non-union company that basically laughed me out of their office. I switched to HVAC because they were busy, just to help for the summer, but obviously, I stuck it out and stayed in HVAC.”
Levari became a journeyman in 2006 and has overcome many obstacles in her way. “Objections started with my first interview when they were asking if I was afraid of spiders, which felt a little sexist, but I moved on,” she recalled, laughing. “My apprenticeship went great, but when I started at a new contractor, it became pretty obvious the guys weren’t thrilled and didn’t want to work with me. I outlasted that crew and stayed seven years. I have been with my current contractor more than 10 years, which has helped me grow personally and gain invaluable knowledge.”
Her biggest challenge during the years has been the extension ladder. “Swinging around a 24-foot ladder takes some practice, but I’m pretty good at it now,” she said. “If you’re trying to break into any trade, be yourself, be passionate, give respect, get respect, work hard and don’t take things too personally.”
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