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.
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.