Breakfast of Champions

Liisa Hill - AIRAH

“Are you a morning person?” asked presenter Lisa Martello at the Women of AIRAH breakfast, held before the second day’s proceedings of AIRAH’s recent Future of HVAC Conference.

When around half of the packed room raised their hands, Martello confessed that she definitely was not. Yet this was never apparent during a session that elicited laughter and applause, as well as moments of critical reflection.
Image:  AIRAH

Martello is director of infrastructure delivery at HKA, an elected board director with the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), a professional mentor with the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, co-founder of anti-racism podcast All Hands On Deck, and founder of the Instagram account @Catching_Bees.


She began by talking about the benefits of equity, diversity and inclusion in the workplace – that it builds morale, fosters creativity, provides balance, and makes good business sense. But to reap those benefits, Martello said, we must have data.

“Are women applying for jobs?” she asked. “Are they being hired? Are they being promoted? Are they leaving before you want them to? Once you’ve got your benchmarks, track them.”

Martello spoke about workplace phenomena such as “prove it again” bias, where extra scrutiny is applied to women’s work, and the glass cliff, where women are more likely to be put into leadership roles under risky and precarious circumstances, making their odds of failure higher.

Importantly, Martello underlined the role of the individual in systemic changes, challenging the audience to catch themselves in a moment of bias and shine a light on their darkest thoughts. She explained that changing internalised sexist and racist behaviour requires conscious and consistent effort.


Before breakfast was served and the audience members shared some of their own stories, Martello issued some homework: to ignore the fear of being annoying when talking about equity, diversity and inclusion, or rather, to embrace it.

“Talk about equity, diversity and inclusion until it irritates the people around you,” she urged. “And then, talk about it some more.”

Image:  AIRAH

For further information:  
Find out more about the Women of AIRAH Special Technical Group at
For more information about AIRAH’s Future of HVAC Conference, go to

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