Women and Green Jobs Roundtable - Green For All working group members meet with Solis and Sutley

Authors: Rebecca Lurie

Editor's Note: On April 22nd, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and the head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Nancy Sutley, held a roundtable meeting about women and green jobs. Three members of Green For All's Pathways out of Poverty Working Group, including Rebecca Lurie, were at the table. This post is adapted from an email Lurie wrote to the Working Group.

In honor of Earth Day, Secretary of Labor Solis conducted a roundtable of women from the field to better understand how green jobs can be theirs too. The Chair of the White House Office on Environmental Quality, Nancy Sutley, shared the facilitation. Elizabeth Reynoso from the Green For All Pathways out of Poverty working group received an invitation and was able to refer both me and Jayne Sheridan (also from the working group).

The conversation revealed a lot of common recommendations from participants -That women need supports that are the same supports for many people moving out of poverty into the workforce. Education, transportation, childcare, mentoring and access.

Many of the green jobs will be in the construction field and what we have learned from that industry over the years can inform development of the new green jobs sector. Executive Order 11246, an equal opportunity law for women and minorities on federal construction sites, states a goal of 6.9% for women. This goal is low, is 30 years old and is still not met. Recommendations included raising the goal to 25% so that the work would not be considered “non-traditional” for women.

Awareness and outreach matters- Communicating to girls at very early ages that working with their hands and in physical jobs is a possibility. Teaching girls that they can do it lays the foundation for them to enter a field where they have to prove themselves every day.

Attendance at this event inspired me to reawaken my roots in this field. We need to teach each other that women belong in our programs and may need some extra supports. Confidence building is part of that extra. And perhaps it is needed across the board in our programs that serve to bring folks out of poverty. We need to assure that the confidence building efforts reach those most likely to walk right on by our programs because of that very lack of believing they can even do it.

So as we run and improve our programs for green jobs as a pathway out of poverty for our various targeted populations, let’s never forget that women are a sub-sect of all of our populations and they will need some special services that just might benefit all.

Secretary Solis spoke about the Green Jobs Act. She told us that the RFPs would likely be coming out of her agency in June. She will want to see proposals that include women in their approach and look at the big picture for workforce development, assuring that all boats rise up with the work we do.

A former carpenter, Rebecca Lurie entered workforce development through her union's training fund. Currently she works at the Consortium for Worker Education, focusing on creating workforce development programs that will accommodate the shifts to environmental sustainability practices. (Bio adapted from Urban Agenda)

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