From the Director, April 2017
It didn't take me long to realize that I am in a minority in the sprinkler industry.
During my first work trip as the Director of the Academy Exams program, I was scheduled to speak about our new certification exam program at a meeting of company owners and other leaders in the industry in Florida. I was a bit anxious, of course--I'd never been on a business trip before, let alone spoken in a work capacity in front of a crowd. And I was trying to build support for our project (our baby, really) on behalf of our little working-our-butts-off company. To top it off, I wasn't a "sprinkler gal"; my training was in school social work. I had only recently learned that sprinklers don't all go off when one does (thanks for that assumption, Hollywood) and was still in that kind of newbie place where I was looking up in every building I entered to see where the sprinklers were. So, the nerves were definitely settling in.
When I walked in the room where we'd be presenting, the first thing that hit me was, "Holy cow....there are a lot of people here..." As I made my way to the front of the room, though, another thought struck me, "Wow. Am I the only woman here?" And, no, I wasn't--I saw one other woman in the room. She was one of the coordinators for the event. It was kind of a revelation to me, really, to see that I was in an industry where men made up the majority of the ranks.
Since that time, I've worked with many women in Florida, at different levels in the fire sprinkler world--from administrative assistant to company owner--and by and large I've been impressed by how dedicated and hardworking they have been. And they seem to stick together: I'll never forget when a female colleague in Florida said to me, "There aren't many of us [women] in this industry--we have to have each other's backs and support each other."
At the same time that I've worked with many women to register and validate male certification-seekers, I've realized the stark contrast between the number of women and the number of men signing up. In fact, between our first exam in late summer of 2012 and 2015, only one woman registered. From the first exam to date, nine women have registered. Nine women and over 675 men. That gap needs to change.
While their numbers are small, the women make their presence known through their performance; those nine women performed extremely well--only one didn't pass, missing her INSP II by only 2 questions. The other eight passed with a 91% or better. The women in the field obviously know their stuff, study hard, and prepare to test well.
As we move forward, I'd love to see the number of women registering for our exam to increase, and I hope for Academy Exams to explore how to encourage that growth. More women in the sprinkler industry can only make it better.