The IIR brings women in refrigeration to the forefront
A chilling gender imbalance: Women in Refrigeration
Today, women are vastly under-represented in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs which include refrigeration. Hence, the number of women in the refrigeration industry is still surprisingly low.
At the IIR for instance, women represent only 10% of the Commission members (41 women to 369 men) and made up less than 10% of participants at the 24th International Congress of Refrigeration (ICR2015), held this August in Japan.
Is the solution to redressing the gender imbalance simple?
The refrigeration industry is set to see changes in the upcoming years, particularly due to amendment proposals to the Montreal Protocol, and HFC regulations worldwide and the EU F-Gas Regulation. A need for qualified personnel will increase, and women must seize this opportunity.
For HVAC & Refrigeration Engineering Ltd., a leading provider of manufacturing, design and engineering services in hazardous and harsh environment products, the solution to redressing the gender imbalance is simple: education.
Creating awareness of career prospects amongst women is key to attracting more to the industry
Today women have access to more platforms offering career advice and support than ever before. Additionally, an increasing number of societies and associations are focusing on the importance of women in STEM sectors and raising awareness of existing gender inequalities in these fields.
For this reason and many more, the IIR organised its first fun and informal workshop on “Women in Refrigeration” during the Congress.
The main objective was to explore factors leading to the lack of women in the refrigeration sector.
The networking session focused on:
- the role of women in refrigeration
- how to increase the number of women (technicians, engineers and researchers)
The workshop provided participants with a great opportunity to expand their network and meet other professionals, female and male, in the field of refrigeration.
After a brief presentation of research done on women in engineering and refrigeration worldwide, the twenty attendees (75% female, 25% male) were invited to provide their insight on the topic. They cited both their own experience and those of others to reflect on what helped and what hindered women joining the profession.
Initially, discussion focused on how and why attendees chose refrigeration as a career, the role education played, and finally career paths.
How did you find your way into refrigeration?
- Some literally ‘fell in love’ with refrigeration -
“I found thermodynamics beautiful”
“I loved the complexity of the systems.”
“I found it easy.”
- Some enjoyed the prospects refrigeration provided -
“Spending time in the US was a perk of the refrigeration course.”
“I saw the opportunity to make money.”
- Some felt it fulfilled a wider sustainability aspiration, or was a means to this end –
“I was drawn to energy management initially and then moved into refrigeration.”
“I wanted to save the world and so went into green energy and building services.”
How did/does the education system in your country encourage or hinder women from studying refrigeration?
‘Mechanical engineering’ and similar vocabulary found in some course descriptions are perceived as “dirty” often putting women off. Conversely descriptions like ‘environmental engineering’ appeal more to women, fulfilling sustainability aspirations.
What influences career choices?
Echoing again the importance of language and perception one businessman commented “few women apply for production engineering jobs and yet in environmental research and engineering 80% of candidates are women.”
The need for role models
Some agreed that women have more opportunities in engineering and refrigeration now than before. However, a greater need for more female role models remained paramount.
What can the IIR do?
Participants made suggestions on how the IIR can change this by:
- Setting up an IIR Women in Refrigeration IIR Sub-working
- Increasing the number of women in IIR Working Groups and Commissions
Lack of diversity and youth in refrigeration
Other points raised during the discussion were why fewer young people chose refrigeration as a career and the need for greater diversity. Meriting their own spotlight, we’ll follow up this focus with the outcomes of these strong topics.
Share your thoughts, experience or comments on Women in Refrigeration using the hashtag #refrigeration. We hope to hear from you!