The refrigeration and air conditioning sector the number of female engineers is steadily increasing

Date: 22 December 2020
The refrigeration and air conditioning sector the number of female engineers is steadily increasing
The refrigeration and air conditioning sector the number of female engineers is steadily increasing
The refrigeration and air conditioning sector the number of female engineers is steadily increasing

Society has changed since the 1960s, and the rights of women, in many aspects, are gradually being taken into consideration. Even in the traditionally male-dominated refrigeration and air conditioning (RAC) sector, the number of female engineers, technicians, trainers, practitioners and professors is steadily increasing.

In the summer of 2020, the UNEP OzonAction team in Panama developed a series of interactive webinars on the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer and gender mainstreaming. The facilitator used a teleconference platform where she engaged participants from National Ozone Units (NOUs) to express their ideas on national gender issues using online annotating tools. Promoting gender mainstreaming is an important element of the United Nations as an organization and it is also reflected in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. In this sense, the financial mechanism of the Montreal Protocol (the Multilateral Fund) has been seeking more systematic ways to mainstream gender in the project lifecycle. Four main aspects concerning the way gender differences are reflected in the Montreal Protocol have been identified: the effects of exposure to ozone depleting substances; the decision-making process; the capacity building opportunities; and the working environment.

The first webinar was organized for the Latin America region on 12 June 2020. The programme included an interactive presentation of the Multilateral Fund operational policy on gender mainstreaming and SDG number 5. Several government representatives were selected to talk about gender policy and a female RAC technician featured in the UNEP OzonAction publication, “Women in the Refrigeration and Air-conditioning Industry: Personal Experiences and Achievements”, Ms. Iris Vegas, from Peru, voiced her experience of working in the male-dominated field, while Ms. Laura Marrero, the representative of Uruguay, explained how Uruguay had advanced by establishing a gender focal point in the government for capacity-building. The representatives of Mexico, Nicaragua and Argentina also expressed their views on the challenges of women working in the RAC sector.

One of the recommendations of the meeting was to continue awareness-raising for female technicians and capacity-building activities. The meeting was well-attended with 49 officers,technicians and representatives of other implementing agencies.

A second webinar was organized jointly with the Europe and Central Asia network on 5 August 2020. The national gender policy of Armenia was presented by Ms. Liana Ghahramanyan and Ms. Knarik Yeghiazaryan. Stemming from the Law of the Republic of Armenia "On Equal Opportunities for Women and Men," the gender policy implementation strategy for 2019-2023 was developed in 2019. The commitments under the Montreal Protocol are being met with due consideration of the above mentioned strategy. Recently a series of training courses on "Preventing Illegal Trade in Ozone Depleting Substances" for customs officers has been completed involving 21 female customs officers out of 70 officers trained.

Four female technicians and refrigeration experts provided their personal experiences on gender issues in their respective professional fields: Dr. Ina Colombo, France, Prof. Gratiela Tarlea, Romania, Ms. Nina Stan, Romania, and Ms. Zeljka Vukovic, Serbia.

The third webinar was organized with the West Asia network on 28 September 2020. Special invitees included Dr. Fotouh Al Ragom, a scientific researcher from Kuwait who explained with great passion her interest in refrigeration and energy-efficiency and her path to study mechanical engineering in a male-dominated field, requiring lots of perseverance. She encouraged women to participate in professional associations. Ms. Lara Haidar from Lebanon’s National Ozone Unit shared her government´s policy for gender mainstreaming in her country.

The fourth webinar was organized on 9 December 2020 with the countries of the English-speaking Africa network. This webinar was adapted from its original concept to address specific African gender issues. Interesting interventions were provided by two female refrigeration technicians, Ms. Mary Kapete from Malawi and Ms. Mercy Njuki from Kenya, both of whom faced many challenges in their professional careers. The national gender experiences were presented by Ms. Martine Uware of Rwanda on gender issues in the political, economic, educational and environmental sectors of Rwandan society. In the Rwandan Parliament, 61% are women. She pointed out that ownership and partnership are key factors to ensure rapid attainment of gender equality.

The overall impression of these four webinars was very positive, although gender mainstreaming is still at its initial stage. This series of webinars on gender showed that OzonAction could develop innovative, inter-regional initiatives during the global pandemic crisis. As hinted by the Multilateral Fund, the institutional strengthening projects could consider the following indicators: the recruitment of gender experts, the number of gender-specific content disseminated, the number of events focusing on gender, the number of women and men that receive/access information, and the percentage of women present and presenting at training workshops.

Mr. Marco Pinzon, the UNEP Montreal Protocol Regional Coordinator for Latin America stated that the initiative is in line with the Multilateral Fund’s gender policy as well as the United Nations SDG Goal Number 5 on gender equity. As an Implementing Agency of the Fund, UNEP will continue fulfilling this mandate by raising awareness, building capacity and promoting gender issues in its programme, projects, services and operations.

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