Green Jobs: What About the Women?

Women are being left behind by the greening economy. (Photo: Halfpoint/Shutterstock)

With all this talk about the green collar economy, the green jobs of the future, etc, one major element seems to be missing – green jobs for women. This week, the U.S. Department of Labor looked at the role women are playing in the green collar economy.

“While President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package allocated $4.2 billion for green job creation some worry that women will not have equal access to positions in traditionally male-dominated construction and manufacturing industries.” Source: Medill Reports Washington

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis wants women to be one of the groups targeted with the federal stimulus dollars set aside for green jobs training. As the focus of stimulus dollars and other corporate spending turns to greening the economy, many women are being left out.

Men make up a large majority of the workforce in manual labor industries including construction, energy, and HVAC. As these industries are seeing a surge in funding thanks to the trend towards a green collar economy, women are left wondering how they can get a piece of the green jobs pie.

The Department of Labor website maintains a list of nontraditional occupations for women. The most recent list available is from 2007 and for definition purposes, jobs in which women make up less than 25% of the total employed population are considered nontraditional.

These are just a few of the positions, which are likely to see funding from the federal stimulus package. Women are woefully under represented in these industries.

If you look at the 20 Leading Occupations of Employed Women list from the Department Of Labor, you’ll see teachers, nurses, and childcare workers among the top 20. Linda Hirshman looks at how supporting women in these positions can also be considered green in her article, Where Are the New Jobs for Women?, which appeared in the New York Times in December 2008.

This discussion reminds me of the age-old issue of the disparity in pay between women and men. As funding is being pushed out to green collar jobs, this pay gap may widen even more. So I ask, what about the women?