I spoke Monday at a forum on green jobs for women at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. Although policymakers assert that government investments in green initiatives can produce 20 percent more jobs than traditional economic stimulus measures, women are not finding as much employment in the green sector as men. I wrote about this issue for the first time last year, my original post is here.
The issue discussed Monday was the low representation of women in white-collar green jobs. When politicians talk about green jobs, the focus is most often on blue-collar work -- workers insulating homes or installing solar panels.
There is no doubt that women are historically underrepresented in manual labor construction work -- women account for just 3 percent of building trade workers. This gender disparity is no different when electricians turn from hooking up HVAC units to hooking up solar arrays.
But what about white-collar green jobs?
There are no practical barriers to entry for women to become construction or energy lawyers, to finance green projects or to create businesses that develop or market innovative green products. Gender equity is only one of the issues here -- it is new efforts in these areas that will create demand for blue-collar and white-collar workers alike, and create new revenue to reinvigorate the American economy.
And yet women make up just 16 percent of the leadership of the ABA Construction Law Committee, and a lower percentage of scientists, researchers, engineers and financiers.
What to do?
- Qualify white-collar green jobs for economic incentives. This will benefit the green economy as a whole. If there are no new businesses creating demand for people to caulk houses or build solar arrays, all the green job training in the world will be wasted. This will benefit men and women alike.
- Create targeted green training (and RE-training) programs for women in law, business, engineering and finance. Alumni groups from higher education institutions could take on this effort and make the training available not only for their alumni, but to professionals within their geographical area.
- Create set-asides in green purchasing programs for women-owned green buisnesses, particularly in government programs and large companies going green.
- Take on the issue. The U.S.Green Building Council and other high profile green organizations and government entities need to make women's participation in the green economy a priority.
Shari Shapiro, J.D., LEED AP, is an associate with Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel LLP in Philadelphia. Shari heads the company's green building initiative. She also writes about green building and the law on her blog a www.greenbuildinglawblog.com, where this post originally appeared.
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