Once again Daikin Australia has sponsored the Woman of the Year in HVACR Award which has a total of seven Finalists. This is by far the biggest category in the awards program with the highest number of nominees.

Meet these outstanding women competing for this award, they include:

Rheem Thermal Systems group production manager, Kelly Hargreaves, manages manufacturing and logistics for the thermal division of the company which covers hot water products and heat pumps. She was promoted to the role two years ago and has ‘exceeded expectations’.

Out of the 30 staff based in the manufacturing division Hargreaves is the only female on-site. But colleagues are quick to point out that she can certainly hold her own. Hargreaves joined the company 18 years ago when it was Accent Air. Her first role was in an administrative capacity but her hard work has seen Hargreaves move through the ranks and into management. Although Rheem purchased Accent Air 10 years ago there was no name change until recently.

Colleagues describe Hargreaves as extremely organised, focused and results driven. “There is never any need to ask twice, she is right on top of it straight away,” they said.

Fujitsu General Australia national manager (People&Culture), Sarah Gatehouse, has solidified her 20 year career with post-graduate study at the Australian Graduate School of Management and is a member of the advisory board for Women for Election Australia and a board member of Real Skills Education which supports engineers.

She feels strongly about women having the confidence to step up and take on more senior leadership roles, especially in the boardroom. Gatehouse is a firm believer in creating a high-performance workplace through culture and driving change. This includes driving internal talent and implementing the right programs to engage employees.

Gatehouse works closely with women utilising her mentoring, training and development programs.

Australian Refrigeration Mechanics Association (ARMA) CEO, Kim Limburg, is passionate about making a difference. This is a woman driven to achieve results for the HVACR industry. As the representative of a trade group, that is largely made up of men, its inspiring to see a woman at the helm of such an important organisation.

Her stamina is the envy of many but Limburg is dedicated to protecting the trade. Her ‘unpaid’ role involves lobbying all levels of government, representing her members and ensuring the profession of refrigeration mechanic is valued.

She doesn’t hesitate to make her voice heard in the corridors of power which is why she is held in such high regard by her peers. In fact her tireless work ethic is the reason why membership has increased and she has been able to deliver results.

O’Connors QHSE coordinator, Tammy Giles, is a woman widely admired by peers for succeeding in a role that requires a high degree of resilience and perseverance. She has been with O’Connors since 2006 providing safety training and safety plans for the company’s construction processes.

Giles has successfully taken on each of the challenges she has faced in the industry and on-site by acting in a professional manner, standing her ground and addressing situations in an educated way. Giles has achieved this while raising a family and supporting a husband dealing with medical issues.

Despite this her focus on legal compliance has led to the company winning a number of awards and being recognised for her detailed understanding of WHS legislation.

For the past decade, BSA national WHSEQ manager, Jane Taylor, has worked in the HVACR industry.
Taylor’s focus has been on health & safety legislation, codes of practice and relevant standards to support sub-contractors and employees.

Her role involves audits and ‘return to work’ plans for employees and strategies that can make a difference to the entire organisation. Taylor is the first to admit that interpreting WHS Law is never easy, particularly as a woman in a male-dominated industry. But Taylor is quick to look beyond stereotypes and get on with the task at hand. That is what sets her apart when working across so many business units at BSA.

Her safety strategy and her personal determination has ensured workers and subcontractors have a transparent link into the BSA business. Today, safety is a seamless part of the organisation’s day to day operations. When CCN asked colleagues to describe the qualities that set her apart from the rest, they said she was “passionate, strong and resilient – able to adapt and overcome in any situation.”

Heatcraft account manager, Katrina Smith, has worked in the HVACR industry for 22 years - now that’s an accomplishment. It shows total dedication in an industry where women often have to work twice as hard to gain credibility. Her “roll up your sleeves and get the job done” attitude has won widespread recognition within the organisation.

In fact, there are few roles within Heatcraft she hasn’t tackled from administration to operations, sales and training. Regardless of the role she is a high achiever. She won Account Manager of the year in 2017 for an outstanding sales performance (21% growth) and she is an inspiration to females in more junior roles throughout the regional network.

There are now six females in similar roles in the region thanks to the successful foundation set by Smith. She set the path for others to follow and has won the admiration of colleagues for her high level of teamwork, persistence and compassion.

South Coast Refrigeration & Air Conditioning managing director, Vonnette Cook, is a bit of a rarity - a woman with her own refrigeration and air conditioning business. She joined the company, under previous ownership, as office administrator in the year 2000.

Then in February 2014, Cook purchased the business and two of the four technicians stayed and supported her through the transition. As well as being passionate about the industry, she believes its everyone’s responsibility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“One way of making a difference is choosing energy efficient equipment; it also saves money in the long run,” she said. “I also believe in the importance of increasing our skilled trade workforce and I can play a part in that by taking on apprentices. I currently employ two apprentices and take every opportunity to build their competencies.”

Cook describes success as a team sport. When she isn’t encouraging employees she is pushing herself. She recently employed her very own business coach to extend her business skills and to avoid getting stuck in a ‘bubble’.