Getting a green job doesn't just make ecological sense, it makes economical sense, according to the Women's Bureau division of the United States Department of Labor. "Green jobs are diverse, rewarding, and overwhelmingly nontraditional to women," the DOL reported. National efforts are being made to get women more involved in green jobs. In fact, green just might be the new education, when it comes to jobs favored by females.
Why? Well, consider this: Many green jobs offer better wages and benefits than other jobs traditionally held by women. For instance, construction carpenters, 99 percent of whom are men, earn an average of $18.72 an hour. In contrast, 98 percent of preschool teachers are women, who typically earn $11.48 an hour. With these wages, a preschool teacher would have to work 25 more hours per week to earn the same amount as a carpenter.
In fact, while women have made great strides in some male-dominated occupations, they still represent only a small portion of the workers in green occupations. For example, women comprise only 1.7 percent of electricians; 3.7 percent of locomotive engineers and operators; 16 percent of industrial production managers; and 5.5 percent of first-line supervisors/managers of mechanics, installers and repairers. Workers in these jobs retrofit buildings, design and operate environmentally-friendly transportation technologies, and help produce wind and solar power.
Policymakers, funders, employers, workforce professionals, training and education providers, and advocates are making targeted efforts to ensure that women recognize and take advantage of the opportunities offered by green occupations. All sorts of programs and funding are becoming available to get women more involved.
Five reasons for women to consider green jobs
1. You can start with any skill or experience level
The time you took off from the work force to raise a family or care for a loved one is not necessarily a problem. A study focused on green employers in Berkeley, Calif., for example, found that 86 percent of the green business owners interviewed hired workers who had no previous direct experience. In addition, 94 percent offered on-the-job training to entry-level employees.
2. Green job opportunities are available for women of any age
While many fields have a bias against "women of a certain age" or young women with little experience, there are pathways into green jobs for those just starting out or those in need of a career change. Whether you have a high school education or an advanced degree, you can find a niche in the green economy. Federal funding -- through the U.S. Department of Labor's (USDOL) Aging Worker Initiative, USDOL's Green Capacity Building and Pathways Out of Poverty grants, and the U.S. Department of the Interior's Youth Conservation Corps -- is spurring an increase in green jobs training. There are many opportunities for younger workers to get started and for more seasoned workers to use their skills in new ways.
3. There are multiple ways to get started in a green job
The majority of the caretakers in America are female, and they have diverse time constraints which may need non-traditional accommodations. Training for green occupations is offered in a variety of forms, including on-the-job, paid union apprenticeships, programs sponsored by nonprofit organizations, and formal degree programs. Unions offer a good starting point for finding training opportunities. Industry associations are also a source of information on the skills and training required to start work in green occupations.
4. Green jobs can give women greater satisfaction
Research shows that job satisfaction is a key ingredient for success in other areas of life, and that it contributes to a general sense of fulfillment. In taking a green job, women can have satisfaction knowing that they are contributing to a healthier environment for the present and future generations. Also, green jobs often offer career paths so that women can grow professionally.
5. More jobs = more opportunities
In many areas of the country, green jobs are in demand and future growth is projected. According to the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, every state is seeing growth in at least one green industry segment. Projections show expected growth in sectors such as energy conservation, waste management and clean energy. In addition, despite the economic recession, companies are still looking to develop green technologies and they are identifying a skills shortage as they do so. For example, a review of literature by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that the lack of a skilled and well-trained work force was a barrier to growth in the solar power sector.
So it looks like the sun is shining on green jobs for women these days. Why not consider soaking some of that up?