When Dana Marr graduated from college, she agreed to work temporarily as a service dispatcher in her family's business — Wooldridge Heating, Air & Electrical, Lynchburg, VA. She was preparing for what she thought would be a career in banking. Today, 23 years later, she's still at Wooldridge, having carved out a career in the male-dominated HVAC industry that she's grown to love.

Dawn Richards left a position with the Marine Corps to help her father during a particularly busy time in his growing business — Childress Heating & A/C, Inc., Fredericksburg, VA. She also stayed, joining her sister, Dena Cooke, in the family business. Today, Richards serves as office manager and treasurer of the company, while her younger sister handles accounts payable, contracts and change-outs.

In October, these women and 28 others gathered for an original event — a women-only tour of the Johnson Controls factories in Wichita, KS, and Norman, OK.

Maureen Baker wears a variety of hats in the business she and her husband Ken have owned for 24 years — York distributor Virginia Air Distributors, Midlothian, VA. She, too, had never toured an HVAC factory.

"We've conducted twice annual trips to factories for the past 10 years, sending 20 to 30 people — and by people, I mean men — on each trip," Baker says. "But it occurred to me that we had never sent a group of women, despite the fact that more and more women are working in the industry. So we gauged the interest among our dealers and got a tremendous response to our inquiry." Baker reached out to representatives from the York brand of Johnson Controls, and together they organized a three-day, all-expenses-paid trip for 32 women to the two Johnson Controls manufacturing facilities. In addition to plant tours, the trip included a tour of the Wichita lab, discussions of quality processes, market product demand and the York dealer intranet and question and answer sessions.

To read more about the tour, visit http://bit.ly/jcitours