Green jobs are great — if you’re a dude, says a recent New York Times op-ed by Linda Hirshman:
It turns out that green jobs are almost entirely male … especially in the alternative energy area. A broad study by the United States Conference of Mayors found that half the projected new jobs in any green area are in engineering, a field that is only 12 percent female, or in the heavily male professions of law and consulting; the rest are in such traditional male areas as manufacturing, agriculture, and forestry. And like companies that build roads, alternative energy firms also employ construction workers and engineers.
And green or not, most of the 2.5 million jobs Obama has promised to create in the next two years will also go to men, writes Hirshman. She notes that building projects necessarily entail construction workers, only 9 percent of whom are female.
Funding for school repair and transportation infrastructure is all well and good, but what about support for “professions that build the most important infrastructure — human capital”? What about all the teachers and social workers and child-care providers and hipster librarians? Hirshman notes that some of Obama’s campaign promises would boost funding for these predominantly female positions, but they’re not getting attention as part of his economic-stimulus plan. Continues Hirshman:
Maybe it would be a better world if more women became engineers and construction workers, but programs encouraging women to pursue engineering have existed for decades without having much success.
Ouch. In 2005, only 26 percent of college-degree-holding workers in nonacademic science and engineering positions were female, according to the National Science Foundation. And recent research found 35 percent of women scientists who planned on pursuing a university career in the first year of their PhDs abandoned that plan by the third year, compared to a measly 2 percent of men. How much do the slim numbers of women in science and engineering contribute to the under-representation of women in high-profile green positions?