For all the “girl power” rhetoric of the past half-century, women still earn just 77 cents for every dollar earned by men and make up just a tiny fraction of the professionals working in scientific and technological fields. But according to an analysis by the Center for American Progress, if the United States is going to emerge from the recession into a new clean energy economy, it must be with our help.
Despite the fact that women have higher levels of college enrollment, earn 1.2 million more graduate and undergraduate degrees every year than men and make up nearly 50 percent of the workforce, we’re still grossly unrepresented in the three high-paying sectors that will be integral to the clean energy economy: green collar jobs, engineering and entrepreneurship.
But it’s not because we don’t want to be – the reality is that the glass ceiling is still intact, with all kinds of factors making it difficult for women to be successful in these areas. The Center for American Progress, a liberal public policy research and advocacy organization, notes that women of all income levels don’t have equal access to training, employment, start-up capital and financing to get a foot in the doors of these industries. Women-owned businesses are also far less likely to gain lucrative federal contracting opportunities.
Demand is set to dramatically increase for skilled workers in the construction, manufacturing, and agricultural sectors as the federal government pushes for progress in alternative fuels, bio-energy and other industries, and highly trained scientists are needed to continue the advancement of green technology.
Luckily, programs that train women for these jobs are starting to pop up around the nation, like the Vermont Works for Women project and Women Going Green in Atlanta, Georgia – but addressing the barriers that women still face will need to be a major priority. The only way for the United States to compete with highly motivated nations like China is to make sure that the female workforce plays a vital role in helping the green economy flourish.