I’ve wanted to work on this issue, Women in HVACR, for a long time. I remember when I started on this magazine, Jeff Forker (may he rest in peace) immediately shipped me off to one of HARDI’s predecessor organizations, the North American Heating Refrigeration Air Conditioning Wholesalers. I walked into one of the larger meetings and thought, “Wow, there’s a whole bunch of middle-aged white boys here.” (For the record, I was one of those middle-aged white boys.) The year was 1998, and the conference was in Reno, Nevada. What I surmised then, as I understand now, was that most of the people who attend these conferences are decision makers. Maybe not the “owner” but individuals who call the shots or at least influence someone who makes those decisions.

In 2013, I attended the HARDI conference, and if we leave aside those accompanying their spouses for nonbusiness reasons, I thought, again, “Wow, there’s a whole bunch of middle-aged white boys here.” (This time, however, I was on the declining end of middle age and sans hair.)

If you think this is going to be a lecture or message about why there should be more women in the HVACR industry, it isn’t. Nor am I examining the issue of women across the board, but rather those who are decision makers and influencers. Not to place too fine a line on this and certainly not a judgment of worth, but it is the decision makers who affect the industry in the most powerful and noticeable fashion.

The sin that many journalists make is that we think we know the answers for our readers. That’s why in this first-ever digital issue of HVACR/ Hydronics Distribution Business magazine, I’ve taken the liberty of designing it so that women answer most of the questions without any journalistic interpretations. Yes, I came up with the questions (some in consultation with Ruth Ann Davis, the current president of Women in HVACR, and Patti Ellingson, its former president). I don’t think many people will consider the questions unfair.

A slight detour. I remember reading an article about the revolt in the Arab world and unsurprisingly, the issue of women as second-class citizens (at least by our Western interpretation) arose. The writer said with dripping sarcasm that he was fine if the Arab world wanted to stifle or ignore half of its brainpower.

I think you get the drift. I am NOT drawing a similar analogy to the status of women in our industry to those in the Arab world. However, I do wonder how much different our business would be if more women participated at the upper echelons of our industry. As a boring, bald, white boy, I’m fairly certain this is no “guy conspiracy.” I suspect, however, that our failure to attract more women rests on neglect as much as on some old-fashioned notions about industries that are a “natural” for women and those that aren’t. Maybe yes, maybe no.

Despite what I think, after more than 16 years in the industry, what really matters is what women think. Here’s your chance to find out. Changes today, such as the introduction or emphasis of an idea, can make a lasting imprint in the future.

That’s why I’m still friends with Blaine Fox and Joey Henderson, both of whom I met at the NHRAW conference so many years ago and who shared some insights about the industry when I was a novice. They helped me. I hope this issue helps you.

. . .

This is my last issue. As the founding editor of HVACR/Hydronics Distribution Business in 1998, I have had a long and rewarding adventure. I want to thank all my friends and contacts at Penton Media for allowing me to write about this exciting industry. I want to thank Jim McDermott and the late Jeff Forker for hiring me, and Joe Pulizzi for keeping me on track. I also want to thank my longtime designer, Danielle Lees, for a great “look,” and a first-class proofreader, Milka Perić.

I have a special note of thanks for John Ehlen, who took this modest quarterly and doubled its frequency. We’ve been a great team and I know we’ll continue to be great friends. Lastly, I’d like to thank my readers and members of the industry. When I started with this publication, I didn’t know what HVACR stood for. Now I am a permanent part of the industry.

Farewells are never easy. Tom and I have been friends and teammates on this magazine even before I became publisher in 2002, working on a magazine that addressed important issues in the HVACR industry, especially from the wholesaler perspective. We complemented each other’s strengths, viewpoints and vision for the industry. I will miss his steady, professional hand in helping me publish this magazine.

I want to offer my sincerest thanks for his professionalism, great relationships with our supplier and wholesaler partners, and his consistent, dedicated efforts. I will miss my teammate and friend.

–John Ehlen, publisher, HVACR/Hydronics Distribution Business magazine