Sex and Misunderstandings, Part Two: HVAC Industry Conference

Get your mind out the gutter. I mean GENDER misunderstandings!

MCAA has been a great resource for us for many years.

A couple of years into my career in HVAC, I decided to attend an educational conference put on by the Mechanical Contractor’s Association of America. It’s a fantastic organization with a lot of very talented individuals and it has been a great resource for us for many years. I figured the conference would be a great way to make contacts in the industry, meet some colleagues and pick up a little industry knowledge at the same time.

Since this particular conference was in Disney World, the happiest place on earth, I decided to invite my husband to come along. The conference was in March and we live in Massachusetts. So, Orlando in March vs. Massachusetts in March? No contest even if there wasn’t golf. But of course, there’s always golf, isn’t there? So golf he did. All day long while most of the other conference attendees’ spouses were attending the specially designed Spouse Programs offered during the conference. Programs like, ‘Dressing to Flatter Your Figure’ or ‘Strategically Applying Lip Gloss On The Go’. OK, I exaggerate, but clearly not the kind of classes that my husband thought would interest him.

Despite the spouse entertainment being clearly geared toward female spouses, I was pretty excited to see that there were many women attending the classes with me during the day. However, without fail, every evening at the networking events – despite clearly marked name tags noting him as the spouse and me as the attendee – my husband was forever having his hand shaken in introduction and awkwardly having to say, “Uh, no, I’m actually here with my wife.” It became kind of a joke between us. How far could he get in the conversation before it became clear that he didn’t know the first thing about HVAC. It was pretty amusing.

Red stilettos with black boots

Almost as amusing as the pink bags at check in. What is it with pink anyway? Pink haunts and torments me. More on this pink phenomenon in my Pink Hard Hat blog. But I digress, back to the pink bags…

 So, all of the male conference attendees received blue bags with great info about the conference, course info, industry sponsors, etc. in it. All of their wives received cute little pink bags with more “fun” stuff in it, including info on the special spouse programs (lip gloss classes and whatnot). Now, by creating this his and hers bag delineation, I can just imagine the conference organizers meeting to sort out the perceived dilemma. Some of the conference attendees are female. What to do? Must bridge this gender gap with grace and sensitivity! So, rather than simply giving the female conference attendees the same bags as the male attendees, we received an amalgamation of the two bags. Which means they actually went through the trouble of assembling four sets of bags – one for the male attendees, one for their spouses, and then an opposite set for us female attendees and our male spouses – all in an effort to “include” us.

 I can appreciate that thought went into accommodating my femaleness, but why make the effort at all? Conference attendees get one color bag. Conference spouses/guests receive a different color. Lip gloss optional.

I cannot wait for a day when women in HVACR are so common that do not trigger any special accommodations, pink or otherwise. Until then, my husband and I will continue to play the “Guess who’s in the industry?” game. And he’ll get teased for not attending the lip gloss seminars.