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UN: Sustainable cooling demand a vital driver for industry gender diversity

Joint publication by several UN organisations details the unique career paths of 100 women working across the global cooling sector on research, engineering and sustainability focused initiatives

Efforts to eliminate HCFC use and reduce industry reliance on HFC refrigerant in line with the Montreal Protocol offers a significant opportunity to broaden workplace diversity in refrigeration and air conditioning, according to the UN.

A joint publication from the United Nations Environment Programme and UN Women organisation has set out the current global scope of work by female specialists in the fields of AC and cooling, and the opportunities to create a workforce that can tackle a surge for sustainable cooling.

The findings noted that, particularly in the case of developing countries, AC and refrigeration is the largest, and sometimes only consumer of ozone depleting substances – making it one of the most vital sectors in need of reform to address climate change.

The publication added, “This fast-growing sector can offer a wide variety of interesting and fulling careers for women as well as men.”

A key focus of the publication is to build awareness of the potential career opportunities in the cooling sector to address a range of both environmental and engineering challenges, particularly for young women.

Over 100 case studies are provided in the report focusing on women working in a range of disciplines and projects facing up to key cooling challenges. Examples include the design of specialised HVAC equipment in Indonesia, student training initiatives in Mumbai and the development of alternative refrigerants.

This work coincides with what the UN report describes as rapid growth around the globe in requirements for refrigeration and cooling appliances.

The publication stated, “The substantially expanding market mirrors economic growth, the continuous rise in the global population, shifting lifestyles, the global trend toward urbanisation, the expansion of the food cold chain and particularly the growing middle classes in many developing countries and emerging economies.”

A UK perspective

From a UK perspective, three case studies are identified in the report, including the career of Hayley Ann Billson, who started her career in 2011 as a trainee sales engineer for Beijer Ref UK. She is presently group product manager at the company, a role that involves overseeing new products from a concept stage onto the market.

Ms Ann Billson said, “All my roles in the industry have been challenging, but manageable. The most challenging to date has been obtaining recognition by the industry of the need for refrigerant solutions for the medium and long term as we work through a phasedown situation. I often wonder what our industry would be like if we had continued to use CO2 as a refrigerant as we did in the 1980s!”

The publication also looks at the work of Ana Catarina Marques, who after completing her first degree in 2005 in Portugal, undertook a number of internships around the world working on the development of food and drink products. She later moved into refrigeration, while undertaking a PHD in London.

Currently engineering manager with Adande Refrigeration, Ms Marques is also helping lead work to promote careers in refrigeration to young people, while also speaking at conferences and innovation events around the world.

She said, “Refrigeration, unlike other fields, does not have a clear career path, but in my experience is a unique industry to be in. It combines knowledge of mechanical design, electrics and electronics, physics, chemistry and food science to solve real technical challenges. Because it has both a direct (refrigerant leakage) and indirect (energy use) impact on climate change, this is an industry where your work can make a significant contribution towards a more sustainable planet.”

The third UK case study looks at the career of Jacinta Caden, business development associate with Critical Project Services. She has previously been manager of Integral’s industrial refrigeration and critical environments division.

Having worked across the air conditioning industry, initially as an apprentice, and then in senior managerial roles, Ms Caden has been an RAC wholesaler, served as a technical sales engineer and even had time to obtain a licence for driving articulated trucks and coaches.

Ms Caden added that over the course of her career opportunities were available to experience both work as a hands-on engineer, as well life in more office-based and managerial work.

She said, “The RAC industry is ever-changing: whether in terms of global warming, or legislation and with Brexit also on the horizon, there are interesting times ahead. Every day, everywhere I go I see refrigeration new and old. I am always intrigued and sometimes surprised about how RAC is utilised.”

“This makes me proud to be part of an industry that will never die, an industry that everyone needs.”

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