AT ITS ANNUAL convention in October in Boston, the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors - National Association will install Mary Garvelink as its first woman president in its long history.
She says the fact that she's a woman in this position is a "non-issue." We respectfully disagree, and here's why.
Garvelink is not only the first woman to reach the top of the PHCC, she also is the first one to lead a major national trade association in the mechanical contracting industry. For an industry with a reputation of being slow to adopt change, we think her presidency is a big deal.
It's significant because Garvelink has become a role model for other women to follow. Our industry has been struggling for decades to attract bright, eager and qualified people in greater numbers. Garvelink's ascension to PHCC national president clearly shows that the plumbing-heating-cooling-piping industry accepts and promotes people based on their abilities and attitudes. Gender, race, age, native language and physical disabilities are no more than secondary considerations.
And it's about time that we've reached this point. The demographics of the mechanical contracting industry's workforce have been changing for years with more women and minorities joining it.
Entrepreneurial women and minorities have carved their place in the industry with their own companies. Garvelink, who worked with husband John to build their Colorado-based Commercial Design Engineering contracting company, is a good example of this.
Other progressive contractors have recruited, hired, trained and promoted women and minorities to fill their needs for qualified help. Garvelink becoming president of a major trade association can only help these contractors to market their companies — and our industry — as they recruit among students and job candidates from nontraditional labor pools.
Mary Garvelink has become a role model for other women to follow.
We understand why, as PHCC president, Garvelink would not want to be treated differently than her predecessors. Character, integrity and honesty are important principles to her, and none of them is gender specific. From her childhood in rural Michigan, she says that she never chose her extracurricular activities or judged her success by anything other than her ability to perform the task at hand.
A couple incidents in her youth, however, opened her eyes to the fact that society didn't always share her view of how things should be.
In one case, her high school debate team was denied a trophy solely because she, a girl, was a member. That decision was later reversed, which was only right. As someone who spent time on his high school's debate team, I can tell you that girls can be just as wellprepared, quick on their feet and argumentative as boys.
In the second case, she discovered the loneliness of being the only girl on an otherwise all-male club. In this case, it was a high school Future Farmers of America club that traveled to an overnight regional event, and she had to spend a night with an entire dormitory to herself.
So, becoming president of a predominantly male association probably has a familiar ring to it and really is a nonissue for her. Still, we should not underestimate Garvelink's accomplishments in reaching this position.
Mary Garvelink becoming PHCC's first national president is an issue in which the industry can take pride. But her work as president will only begin when she takes office.
Among the goals she has set for herself at PHCC are to initiate an off-year trade event that will rotate with the new biennial ISH-North America format; to place renewed emphasis on apprenticeship programs; and to improve relationships with industry partners.
In addition, she wants to emphasize PHCC's mission statement to help members protect the nation's environment as well as its health, safety and comfort.
We wish her success in achieving these goals. We also commend her for what she will represent for the industry in 2005 and the years ahead.