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Green Jobs also for women? A lot needs to be done

Submitted by on 26 Jul 2011 – 11:32


Elisabeth SchroedterElisabeth Schroedter, MEP, Greens/EFA

Transformation to a sustainable economy brings new jobs in new sectors, offers new job opportunities in traditional sectors and helps in sustaining jobs in endangered sectors.  Green jobs offer a better, more sustainable future – if we ensure that these green jobs are also decent jobs. And if we do not forget to ensure that women and men equally have the chance to profit from this transformation to a more green and sustainable labour market.

The first preliminary results of a study on the gender perspective of the Green New Deal[1], commissioned by the Greens/EFA, are alarming: Of 26 occupational sectors with a high green jobs growth potential, only three are mainly female: for example health and social sciences, while 20, i.e. 60% are highly male dominated, amongst those technicians, the engineering sector, trade representatives and sales persons, architects and construction workers. In order to guarantee that women profit equally from the job potential of an ecological economy, we need more political measures and stronger instruments for gender balance in male dominated sectors.

Discriminative measures regarding recruitment and promotion, as well as a lack of women in leadership positions block women’s career paths in these sectors.  In Germany for example, the unemployment rate of female engineers is twice as high as that of their male colleagues.

Projects with the objective of promoting women in nearly exclusively male sectors[2] have shown that it is, however, not enough to promote the recruitment and training of women. Prejudices of employers and colleagues are too severe, and it is too hard for women to hold their ground in an environment that is dominated by male language and macho jokes.   Initiatives against all forms of discrimination at the workplace are crucial for the success of women in a green economy. Furthermore, the male dominated working culture with e.g. inflexible and often long working hours needs to be changed to make those sectors a more attractive working place for both women and men. Male dominated sectors need to be opened up to women and should create equal working environments and conditions that make joining the work force attractive for women, including closing the gender pay gap. This includes targeted advice services, a gender balanced recruitment policy and a new internal and external image for the sectors. If we do not ensure a holistic concept of gender balance also for these sectors, the danger is that women will not be excluded from the job potential of the “energy revolution”.

It is often stated, that the social services sector represents the social dimension of the Green New Deal. A strong social service sector is undoubtedly an important part of a sustainable and social Europe. But these are already existing sectors, in which women – paid and mostly unpaid – work since centuries. These should not be counted as a new job potential.  Real progress would be if we could achieve adequate recognition for care work, including fair working conditions and a pay level living up to the hard working conditions. And true gender balance also in the social and health care sector.

The fight against gender discrimination in the workplace and against the gender pay gap is high on the political agenda of the Greens. The promotion of women in the framework of the Green New Deal can therefore not afford to step into the usual trap of gender segregation between sectors, but must ensure that thanks to targeted measures women have chances to equally profit from all new sectors in the green economy.

The decision of the European Parliament on “developing the job potential of a new sustainable economy”[3] therefore, thanks also to the very engaged Women’s Rights  Committee, devotes a whole chapter to gender equality in the framework of an ecological transformation, and calls for an EU Initiative to raise awareness amongst employers for the need of a more diverse workforce and to establish measure to promote gender balance in male-dominated sectors; calls upon member states and social partners to combat discrimination of women in a sustainable economy; develop targeted training and recruitment initiatives accompanied by awareness-raising; to launch an initiative targeted especially at young women to promote their participation in the so-called STEM professions (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). The resolution furthermore calls for a strong recognition of the objective of promoting women in green jobs in the ESF and recalls the EU obligation of gender budgeting in all Funds.

So for the moment the prospect for women to profit from the green jobs potential is grim. If we do not get active now promoting more gender equality in all sectors of our labour market, women will miss out on the great opportunities for more sustainable green employment due to old power structures, stereotypes, discriminative attitudes and male dominated work cultures. It is now up to the European Commission to propose a truly gender balanced green strategy. It is up to the Member States to implement the measures the European Parliament and the Council have called for. And it is up to women in trade unions and other organisation to demand that their governments live up to these commitments.


[1] “Gender perspective of the Green New Deal”, study commissioned by Greens/EFA in the European Parliament, executed by Dr. Mara Kuhl, Consultancy for Public Administration and Politics Prof. Friedericke Maier, director of the Harriet Taylor Mill-Institute of the HWR Berlin; study to be published November 2011.

[2] EQUAL gefördertes Projekt LIBRA Development Partnership Sweden. http://ec.europa.eu/employment_social/equal/practical-examples/opport-diversity-demographic_en.cfm

[3] A7-0234/2010; adopted in September 2010, on the basis of an own-initiative report by myself.