Green Jobs Must Ensure Gender Pay Equality Worldwide

Editor’s Note: EarthTechling is proud to repost this article courtesy of Center for American Progress. Author credit goes to Rebecca Lefton, Jorge Madrid and Lejla Sadiku.

A clean energy economy will generate new industries and jobs in manufacturing, construction, science and engineering, and much more. And if we do it right, it will also enhance gender pay equality. Let’s not transfer the gender pay gap of the traditional economy to the new green economy.

Green jobs today are ripe for pay equity

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics now boasts a new jobs category, Green Goods and Services, which details that our nation currently has 3.1 million green jobs across a wide variety of sectors, including construction, manufacturing, professional services, and science- and research-related fields. According to the bureau, the green jobs category comprises numerous new and traditional job sectors that “provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources” or “in which workers’ duties involve making their establishment’s production processes more environmentally friendly or use fewer natural resources.”

image via Shutterstock

Indeed, says the Brookings Institution, green jobs in the clean energy sector grew at twice the rate of jobs in the general economy during the peak of the recession from 2008–2010. While these new statistics tell a promising story for the growth of the green economy and nation’s job recovery as a whole, the potential for women to participate in this economic growth—both domestically and internationally—still remains unclear.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 pumped $90 billion of direct spending and tax incentives into clean energy technologies. Yet according to the U.S. Department of Labor, of the $500 million in Recovery Act funding, only $5 million was set aside to fund programs that train women for nontraditional jobs. A big opportunity was subsequently lost with the Senate’s failure in 2010 to advance a comprehensive clean energy and climate bill that could have included provisions to provide opportunities for low-income workers and fund additional green jobs training for women in nontraditional sectors such as construction and manufacturing.

While the Recovery Act jump-started the process of building a clean energy economy, high unemployment continues to be a challenge as the overall economy recovers, particularly for women. As CAP Senior Economist Heather Boushey explained, in 2010 job growth for men outpaced job growth for women for 10 out of 12 months. Jobs in manufacturing and construction, which account for a large portion of green jobs and that are disproportionately held by men, are on the rise—for men. Women lost 18,000 manufacturing jobs from November 2009 to November 2010, while men gained 126,000 jobs.

Potential benefits of green jobs for women

Despite the current employment disparities and a gender-unbalanced economic recovery, green jobs still hold potential for increasing accessibility and equity for women’s employment. A new publication by the U.S. Department of Labor, “A Woman’s Guide to a Sustainable Career,” emphasizes the diverse range of opportunities for women to participate in the green economy. The guide discusses seven reasons why green jobs are good for women, including the opportunity for women to earn more money, build skills, and gain entry into a growing, global industry with opportunities for innovation entrepreneurship. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis adds that:

Good green jobs help workers and their families. They increase incomes, narrow the wage gap, allow flexibility, and are safe, secure, sustainable, and innovative. They enable people with different backgrounds and skills the opportunity to build career paths and achieve economic self-sufficiency.

As an aggregated industry—or cluster of industries—the green economy is making good on the potential to pay higher wages and offer career paths to workers with diverse skills and education levels. A recent report by the Brookings Institution, “Sizing the Clean Economy: A National and Regional Green Jobs Assessment,” finds that green jobs pay $7,000 more than the national wage average. Further, the Brookings study finds that roughly half of these jobs are held by workers with a high school diploma or less, and 41 percent of the nation’s green jobs offer medium- to long-term career building and training opportunities.

The socioeconomic characteristics of green jobs—well-paid, upwardly mobile, and available to diverse communities with varying levels of skills and education—have long been the core values of advocates of the green economy. Organizations such as Green for All, the Apollo Alliance, Wider Opportunities for Women, and the Center for American Progress have led the national discussion that job creation is not just a numbers game. Economic development and job creation should also reflect equality and accessibility in order to address longstanding economic disparity and to help build a strong middle class, particularly for working mothers who represent nearly two-thirds of breadwinners or co-breadwinners for all U.S. households.

The Center for American Progress is an independent nonpartisan educational institute dedicated to improving the lives of Americans through progressive ideas and action. Building on the achievements of progressive pioneers such as Teddy Roosevelt and Martin Luther King, our work addresses 21st-century challenges such as energy, national security, economic growth and opportunity, immigration, education, and health care. We develop new policy ideas, critique the policy that stems from conservative values, challenge the media to cover the issues that truly matter, and shape the national debate.


  • Reply May 3, 2012


    any info on green jobs in Canada?

  • Reply May 5, 2012


    Why does no one actually seek to evaluate the reality? The
    reality is that the clean tech sector jobs are basically technology and people
    transfer from pre-existing industries since they are in fact a combination of
    various industries as opposed to something entirely new.

    For women in this industry, there are numerous obstacles aside
    from the fact that the usual players from automotive and oil industries are
    moving into this sector.  At the manual
    labour construction-related level, these jobs require heavy lifting.  On other fronts … it’s not as green as it
    sounds … it’s still primarily about ROI.

    Professional women will play enormous roles doing the right
    thing, obviously.  Unfortunately, most of
    this work is done through NGOs, not private sector organisations, within the
    renewable energy industry

    Then again, if you are interested in Sales, Marketing,
    Receptionist, and all the usual public faces that private sector corporations
    need, there is a huge demand for women to give these ex-petro and ex-chemical
    companies a ‘green’ face, best presented through women 🙂

    Personally, I think that women should start to collaborate with
    women in order to do what they know to be right.  As women, from a socio-economic standpoint,
    we need to move past competition to collaboration.  We know what needs to be done and have the
    power to make it happen.  Traditional
    structures based on power will not enact the change that is required.

  • Reply May 5, 2012


    The studies seem to ignore what types of work women seem to
    migrate towards.  Aggregate averages
    across industries, roles and genders yield relatively meaningless numbers.  There are certain positions that women just
    will not occupy i.e., de-slagging castings with a grinder in a forgery.  I’m surprised that men even sign up for such
    a job?

    As a female professional engineer having also been involved
    in the military, I had to chime in on this article with my thoughts.  I have lived through Ontario Canada initiatives
    trying to encourage more women to enrol in the combat trades; I have lived
    through the SAE trying to encourage young girls to become involved in
    manufacturing.  At the end of the day, I
    would like to propose that professional women have a very different focus than
    men.  I propose that there are industry
    sectors that women, on average, are never going to be interested in.

    Unfortunately, these sectors and positions are amongst those
    within the highest income bracket.  So
    the real question becomes: “Why aren’t women interested in these
    positions?” AND “Why are these positions paid more than those that women
    are typically interested in?”

    Cynically, I believe that I can answer both of these
    questions, but I choose to carry on in a diatribical fashion to elicit further thought
    on the topic.

    To compare what women earn vs. men, without highlighting
    fields and types of roles that women vs. men typically hold, yields a relatively
    useless picture of reality / data set.  I
    believe that the reality is that the fields in which women exceed and the roles
    that women choose to play are typically paid less.

    A useful study would encompass identifying what these fields
    & roles are and why they pay less than those traditionally populated by
    males and what these male dominated fields and roles are in comparison.

    Psychology can explain (without excusing it) why men are
    paid more for the exact same job with similar credentials to those held by the
    female competitor.  That’s not to say it
    should be condoned, but there is no mystery here.

    I believe the real disparity comes from the fact that women
    gravitate towards positions that support sustainable economic development while
    our current socio-economic system values and rewards unsustainable growth lead
    by aggressive entrepreneurs.

    There is still great hope for developing countries, wherein
    women are a strength to be reckoned with on many fronts.

    Perhaps they can achieve what we in North America cannot.

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