This past week DECC youth panel advisor (and past Otesha tour member) Kirsty Schneeberger wrote a blog about a recent all-male all-white energy expert panel at the Department of Energy and Climate Change. It was great to see a conversation open up about how to motivate more girls to purse careers in science, engineering and technology. We don’t have this conversation often enough. In the past 10 years, the gender pay gap has barely moved, and the gap is widest in skilled trades like engineering. Women are still penalised for career success and men are rewarded, since they get more likeable as they move up the proverbial ladder and we get less so.
Even in the warm and fuzzy charity sector, where sometimes it feels like we’re surrounded by women, 80% of Chief Executive roles are still held by dudes. When I attend events, people often assume I’m an assistant or intern, rather than Otesha’s director (our job titles aren’t on our business cards). Lots of my twenty-something friends report similar stories. We’ve all got battle scars from times we were belittled, patronised or just plain underestimated, no matter how much we were kicking ass at our jobs at that particular point in time.
Since Otesha recently convened the fledgling (and very exciting!) East London Green Jobs Alliance, I’m particularly interested in how women will participate in the green jobs of the future. As we move to a low carbon economy, many emerging green jobs will be in the trades sectors. Drafty homes need to be cozied up with insulation, public transportation infrastructure needs to be upgraded and expanded, and renewable energy technologies need to be rolled out. This is a potentially amazing opportunity for the 1 in 5 young people who are looking for work right now, which is why the East London Green Jobs Alliance is planning a pilot to help unemployed young people snag these jobs.
But I can’t help but wonder – how will girls fare? A recent survey by the TUC and YWCA shows that only 3% of engineering apprentices and 1% of construction apprentices are women. Instead, we flock to apprenticeships in the much lower-paid bastions of “women’s work”, childcare and hairdressing. People point to lots of barriers, from poor career guidance to a lack of mentors and role models. Either way, one thing is clear – we can’t build an inclusive green economy without addressing gender equity (and other types of equity, for that matter).
Across the spectrum, whether you’re a solar roofer, the CEO of a green-tech company or a top policy maker.if you hold a green job you are probably not a woman. This needs to change.
P.S. For a perspective on how to tackle the gender gap in high-powered positions, Sheryl Sandberg COO of Facebook gives a compelling TED talk on why we have too few female leaders.