Green Jobs Must Ensure Gender Pay Equality Worldwide


We must begin by assessing the gender gaps in labor and develop programs and policies, both here at home and abroad. Persistent gender gaps are a consequence of culture, gender stereotypes, policy and legal frameworks, and economic factors. As countries advance national, subnational, and local green policies, and finance flows from donor countries to help developing countries advance low-carbon growth, there is an opportunity to ensure that women are part of the solution and gain equal access to green jobs. National governments, donors, and major development banks can take measures to ensure fair labor practices and other policies to narrow gender discrepancies. Specifically:

  • Work-life policies should implement paid family leave, child care assistance, paid sick days, and health care.
  • Legislative policies should enact gender quotas and contract compliance for training, apprenticeships, and jobs.
  • Legal reform should ensure equal land and inheritance rights for women, which then must be practiced.
  • Other policy measures should include gender-responsive budgeting and better education and skills training for girls and women.

Policymakers are already working to eliminate gender gaps, and more can be done, as evidenced by several programs already enacted around the world.

image via Shutterstock

Case in point: It is encouraging that the United States—along with Australia, Denmark, Mexico, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom—is leading a Clean Energy Education and Empowerment initiative to encourage women to join clean energy disciplines as one of 11 initiatives of the Clean Energy Ministerial. The initiative connects women with role models and mentors, provides scholarships, internships, and other opportunities for women in clean energy studies, and academic and industry research opportunities. The goal is “to take cooperative steps toward a world where women across societies are in a position to actively contribute to the clean energy revolution to an equal degree as men.”

There is evidence from different countries that shows legislative and policy reforms have led to positive changes in women’s representation. To illustrate, Norway adopted a 40 percent quota on women in publicly listed company boards in 2003. The law came into force only in 2008, after an assessment in 2005 found that the number women did not reach more than 12 percent, and strict penalties ensued. Other countries have since adopted similar legislation, including Spain, Iceland, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Italy. It is still too early to assess the impact that these changes have had on the composition of top management. An Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development study in 2009, however, found that only 1 in 10 board members of large companies in the member stateswas a woman. New laws are a positive step in remedying this gap.

Introducing a gender perspective and stimulating women’s participation can be directly integrated in development assistance. Gender is a cornerstone of foreign policy, in the United States and elsewhere. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently announced the first-ever secretarial policy guidance on promoting gender equality to achieve our national security and foreign policy objectives that brings a gendered lens to all of the State Department’s work from budgeting and policy development and programming to monitoring and evaluation. The U.S. Agency for International Development and similar agencies in other countries are streamlining gender equality within their programs, either as a priority in itself or as a cross-cutting theme.


The domestic and international movement that embodies the transition to a clean “green” economy is also a social movement. The green economy is not just growth for growth’s sake. It is growth in a smart, sustainable way—and smart and sustainable growth in a green economy means including everyone.

Getting a green job shouldn’t depend on one’s gender, race, or sexual orientation. A clean energy economy does not exclude women who cannot afford day care—it provides it. Without the social dimension, endeavors to grow a smart, environmentally sustainable economy will be incomplete. A new clean economy will remove the barriers of discrimination and will ensure equal access and quality education and training for girls, boys, women, and men. But we’re not quite there yet.

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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