When I first started working for Plumbing & Mechanical’s sister publication, The ACHR NEWS in 2014, I was often the only woman in the room at industry events. Those first few conferences were just a bit intimidating. In fact, it wasn’t until a HARDI annual conference that I first met other women in the industry — shout out to Colleen Keyworth, director of sales and marketing for Online-Access and immediate past president of Women in HVACR, for her immediate friendship then and for all the years since!
Today, when I look around the room, I’m encouraged to see more and more women in the audience. These incredible ladies are breaking stereotypes every day, and I love seeing that. I love hearing about what drew them to the trades in the first place. They are just as dedicated and talented as their male counterparts. Some have to work even harder, just to prove they belong in this male-dominated industry.
So when I was scrolling on LinkedIn in December and came across a post from Cassie Pound, co-owner of Glenpool, Oklahoma-based Quality Heating, Cooling & Plumbing, and Leslie Harpole, owner of Edmond, Oklahoma-based Champion Plumbing, about starting a new podcast highlighting women in the trades, I, of course, reached out for more information.
“I’ve been working on Leslie for almost two years about doing this,” Pound said. “We definitely noticed the hole in our space regarding the representation of women. We know there are women out there doing the work — and doing really fine work — but they’re just not normally the ones who are showcased. Obviously, Leslie and I have built our own personal brands through social media, and we’re pretty well known in the space, owning successful businesses. So I felt we were the perfect candidates to put this together. I had to work on Leslie a little bit because, you know, we’re busy people. We’re just really excited to showcase women in the industry. We’ve been in tons of conversations with these men who act like we’re crazy for wanting representation, but, like Leslie has said multiple times, we’re not feminists, we’re not trying to replace men, but we are in a male-dominated industry and there are women who are doing really big things who just aren’t being recognized.”
As a woman business owner also very active in the industry, Harpole was reluctant to take on a new project, and actually offered Pound alternative suggestions on who could take her place. Pound, however, was adamant that it was meant for the two of them.
“Leslie and I are both outspoken and opinionated — we are the same in a lot of ways, but also very different,” Pound said. “She’s a lot cooler than I am in a lot of ways. I felt like we were a good match in having the same vision for the trades and the industry, but also different enough to bring a little spice and a little sugar to the table, too. We are a good pair together because we communicate well and we understand each other. We’re a good balance of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. And on a podcast, you need that. If you have two people fighting for attention or fighting for their voices to be heard, it won’t work.”
However, it was not too long after attending a Women in HVACR event that Harpole began warming to the idea.
“I’ll be honest, I wasn’t interested, but there were a couple of things that happened on social media, and I was like you know what, if not me, then who?” Harpole explained. “Somebody’s got to get out there, especially in the podcast/influencer space, where there wasn’t a lot of representation. There had to be a better way to showcase these women where we were actually doing it and not talking about it. Because, at some point, you have to stop talking about supporting women and actually do something to spotlight them, give them a voice and let other women see they are out there doing this successfully. I felt like that was the game changer for me. Because it can get really intimidating and overwhelming on social media when you follow a lot of these trade groups and you feel like you can’t relate.
“I have felt, and I still say this today, I am too female for the male groups, and I’m too male for the female groups,” Harpole continued. “I feel like I can’t find my space. I think this allows me to hopefully reach women who feel the same way I do, who are very task and results-driven, but also feel like family comes first.”
And so the Power Women of the Trades Podcast was born.
Pound and Harpole, being only an hour and 15 minutes away from each other, plan to do all their interviews together in a studio with their podcast producer. They plan to record once a month, four to five episodes at a time, which will then air weekly on their podcast channels.
“Our goal is to do short, 30-minute episodes where you can listen to them in your car,” Harpole said. “I listen to a lot of podcasts and books, and I like the shorter ones because, for my brain, that works better — I can listen on a car ride. That’s what we want.”
She also adds that each episode will feature two parts: the guest can talk about whatever they want, along with a problem they are having, and the second part will provide a solution or hack so every episode will have a takeaway.
“We definitely want to focus on women in the industry, but it won’t be just women,” Harpole said. “Something I’m excited about personally that we just talked about recently is doing something like a Wild Card Wednesday, where each of us gets to bring in someone who may not be related at all to the industry, but has impacted our lives in a special way. I could probably have two pages worth of people that I would love to focus on because they’ve done some really cool stuff. For example, this past year, I focused a lot on investing in real estate. I would love to have the guy who helps me with that talk about how it’s very realistic to build wealth through real estate and how you can use your business to allocate funds for that, because that is really going to help someone who may not listen to a real estate podcast. That could be a life-changing thing. I’m excited to see how all that shakes out.”
“Like Leslie says, it’s about putting our feet where our mouth is, by way of continuing to use our mouth,” Pound added. “We know the amazing people out there living in these trades right now. We were in a conversation a while back, and I try not to harp on this, but someone said, ‘But are there any women in the trades currently comparable to the men we’re talking about that have the business acumen to be speaking at these events?’ And this is where Leslie and I differ — well, we were both a little hot-headed there — but this is where I picture Jesus where he’s flipping tables over, because absolutely there are women in this space who are just as successful as men. Leslie and I have found them, we have really exciting interviews set up with them. It’s just going to be good stuff.”
The first episode will be launching from the AHR Expo Podcast Pavilion on Wednesday, Feb. 8 at 12 p.m., which has presented a whole different thrill for Pound and Harpole.
“The AHR Expo people saw my post and a PR person reached out to me on LinkedIn saying they thought it would be really cool if we launched from their event,” Harpole explained. “What’s funny is I own a plumbing company — we will probably be adding HVAC services in the fourth quarter or next year — so I had no idea what AHR was, I had to ask Cassie. She’s like, this is the biggest trade show in our space! This, of course, made everything a lot more hectic than just launching. Cassie was saying we absolutely had to do this, and I was like, are you sure? So, of course, we’re doing it. We like to take it to the next level.”
“Someone kept telling us done is better than perfect,” Pound added laughing. “It’s been a like a whirlwind. We even have a photo shoot coming up. It’s like who are we?”
Both of these ladies have been amazed by all the industry support following the announcement of the podcast launch.
“It’s been so much fun,” Harpole said. “We have received so much support and encouragement, and it’s been such a blessing. The people who have reached out and said, ‘We think this is so awesome you’re doing this, we’re rooting for you,’ our sponsors wanting to support us monetarily, it’s crazy! It’s just so cool. We’re very excited about it.”