By Andrea Newel (Grand Rapids, Michigan)
This article originally appeared on our corporate citizenship website Evolved Employer.
Talk of more green jobs has been everywhere lately, touted as a solution to our economic crisis soaring unemployment rate, and impending climate change situation. However, most green jobs to date have been male-dominated, labor-intensive roles in construction and manufacturing. With women comprising nearly 50% of the current workforce, the green solution will not be nearly as effective without involving more women and utilizing their strengths.
- Encourage women to pursue jobs in math, science and technology. This is the same idea we have discussed many times, but it is becoming increasingly important. In addition to becoming engineers or scientists, women could become architects designing LEED-certified buildings and interior designers selecting environmentally-friendly furnishings.
- Retraining and workplace education. Some claim that massive efforts need to be made toward retraining U.S. workers, while others say that with little effort, existing jobs could be greener. The answer most likely lies in the middle. At any rate, women are an excellent choice to retrain and educate workers on greening their jobs. Green consulting will be growing for some time to come.
- Create more CSR-related jobs. Studies show that women outnumber men in CSR positions already (except for upper management), but many companies either do not have environmental conservation initiatives or their CSR department is understaffed and ineffective. Give companies financial incentives to create and support environmental initiatives to analyze and determine where companies could conserve energy and cut costs. Women could easily take the role of environmental detective, proposing paperless offices, cutting unnecessary lighting, and other cost benefits. In light of several companies’ public statements about requiring supply chain carbon emission transparency (IBM, Morgan-Stanley, HP), companies already need this kind of help.
- Direct the next generation of women and girls down new educational paths. Traditional programs like business and law schools are already offering environmental lines of study. Green MBAs are becoming more and more popular. Technical trade schools and community colleges are also recognizing opportunities to offer classes in green careers. This is especially important since trade schools and community colleges focus on educating local residents, and many people in hard hit areas are in need of new education. Women have traditionally steered clear of labor-intensive jobs, but more effort should be made to open their eyes and engage their interest in previously male-dominated careers.
Austin Community College (ACC) hosted a Women in Green Jobs – Solar Training Information Session in March 2010 in an effort to educate women on why green jobs are the future and the large role that women will play. The session also touched on other green course offerings that ACC offers specifically from a women’s perspective. In K-12, younger girls also need more encouragement to develop an interest in all types of blue and white collar green jobs, even if they are currently considered nontraditional.
- Encourage green businesses and nonprofits. There are opportunities in both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors to create new green businesses, and even industries. Never underestimate the female factor for recognizing unusual green opportunities. Recently, Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative announced a worldwide push toward supplying families in developing countries $25 energy-efficient cookstoves, which would improve their health and reduce carbon emissions. In addition, supplying these cookstoves will spawn an industry that creates jobs both in the U.S. and around the world.
The EPA reported that U.S. buildings are responsible for nearly 40 percent of the nation’s total carbon emissions and almost 75 percent of total electricity consumption each year. Strides toward more environmentally-friendly new construction, as well as retro-fitting older buildings to improve their carbon footprint could make a huge impact. Men may dominate the manual labor market for this niche, but woman could help lead the way.
Women and men are both needed to be green collar workers, defined as, “one who translates new environmental technologies for consumers, designing and manufacturing goods that use fewer materials and less energy that those of just a few years ago.” The aim should be to widen the scope of green jobs for everyone, and that means women, too. Without everyone’s participation, the green job revolution will not succeed as the economic and environmental solution our nation needs.