According to a recent Women in the Workplace survey from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), women across the green building industry are facing historic challenges in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Of nearly 500 women surveyed, 86% report feeling supported by employers - yet nearly 90% note they are still facing challenges when it comes to financial, familial and professional responsibilities.
According to one survey respondent, “Women are a vital portion of the workforce. They often bring new viewpoints to male-dominated fields. However, women shoulder the burden when children cannot go to school. Often, it is a woman who needs to take time off of work or quit their job to take care of kids or sick family.”
Backing up the respondents’ observations and lived experience, a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report showed that women account for 55% of all jobs lost since February of 2020. For those who are self-employed or own their own business, the pandemic has created an additional layer of challenges. One independent architect commented that not only has business has halted, but “additionally, I have had to take care of all the housework, so the hours dedicated to [find] new projects are each day more limited.”
Shifting the Status Quo
To be sure, while the massive, sudden migration from office spaces to working from home (for those who are able to make the switch) has caused seismic upheavals in the lives of millions, the situation is not entirely without a silver lining. Greater flexibility, eliminating commutes and the opportunity to spend more time with family are some of those. According to the USGBC report, “The vast majority of respondents also credit employers with being supportive of their circumstances and obligations. Employers and colleagues have become accepting of toddler drop-ins during video calls and tardiness to meetings. Many responses also indicate their company leadership is regularly communicating with employees and sharing workplace policies and benefits available to support social and emotional well-being. Some employers have also provided additional paid sick leave and stipends for childcare to help alleviate pressures.”
Among the employers and organizations actively working to support working women is the USGBC itself. “USGBC is committed to supporting and promoting women leaders across green building,” said Taryn Holowka, senior vice president of marketing, communications and advocacy at the organization. “By continuing to bring women and allies together, we can make sure that this pandemic is not setting us back, but instead catapulting us into a brighter future. The results of this survey mirror what we’re also seeing at a national level – the challenges that have emerged because of COVID-19 are great, but USGBC is committed to doubling double down on the ideals, personal relationships and charges, to help create a better, more equitable road ahead.”
Since 2012, USGBC has been working to amplify the voices of women in the green building industry through its Women in Green program. According to the organization, “The global leadership platform creates a space for women who are shifting the narrative on empowerment, access and impact in the clean energy economy. Through events, partnerships and other activities, Women in Green has reached more than 5,500 women across the U.S., India, Europe, China and Mexico. It is focused on fostering leadership, moving from mentorship to sponsorship by creating opportunities and encouraging accountability and action that paves the way for the next generation.”
This year’s Women in Green program has recognized nearly 60 women from across more than 30 U.S. states who are challenging the status quo in their communities. Regional honorees will be selected among the women recognized through a public vote taking place the week of October 19. Those selected will be honored at the annual Women in Green event at Greenbuild on November 11 at 1 p.m. EST. Registration for the conference is open and women interested in getting involved can sign up for the Women in Green Working Group. A portion of each ticket purchased to the virtual Women in Green event goes to a scholarship fund that provides complimentary tickets to eligible students and emerging professionals. Applications for this scholarship will be accepted until Friday, October 16 at midnight EST. Notifications of acceptance will go out by Monday, October 26.
About the U.S. Green Building Council
The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is committed to a prosperous and sustainable future through cost-efficient and energy-saving green buildings. USGBC works toward its mission of market transformation through its LEED green building program, robust educational offerings, an international network of local community leaders, the annual Greenbuild International Conference & Expo, the Center for Green Schools and advocacy in support of public policy that encourages and enables green buildings and communities. For more information, visit usgbc.org.