More women in green jobs vital to green economy move


TRANSITIONING to a green economy will not be possible without increasing the participation of women in green jobs, according to the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

In an Asian Development Blog, ADB Senior Communications Officer Pinky Serafica and Senior Gender and Social Development Specialist Veronica Mendizabal Joffre said women’s participation in green jobs remains lower than men.

Data showed that in 2021, there were 62 women considered as “green talent” for every 100 men. This is a concern, they said, given that there is already a high demand for green talent and women are needed to bridge the gap.

“The transition to a low-carbon economy needs to be consciously designed to be socially equitable and inclusive—a just transition. Moreover, the transition cannot be gender-neutral but must be gender-just,” the authors said.

Increasing women’s involvement in the transition to a low-carbon future is important as they are among the most vulnerable to ill effects of climate change such as natural disasters.

“For women, the effects of climate change are already a lived experience. Where environments are damaged and traditional sources of livelihood disappear, women must scrounge farther and travel wider to meet the needs of communities. As new diseases emerge from the imbalance in the natural world, women must grapple with the care and health of their families,” Serafica and Joffre said.

The data also showed women account for only 32 percent of the workforce in sectors such as renewable energy; and only about 11 percent among energy sector start-up founders.

The authors said the gender wage gap in the sector is skewed in favor of men and the gap reached an estimated 31 percent. Most women employed in the sector were also relegated to lower-paid and administrative positions than in technical, managerial or policy-making positions.

“The private sector must act quickly to set up human resource standards that can encourage more women to join transition-related jobs. Key actions include addressing workplace harassment and gender pay gaps, accounting for unpaid care roles, and supporting women’s leadership,” Serafica and Joffre said.

To boost women’s participation in green jobs, the authors recommended that more women be encouraged to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

The authors said globally, only around 30 percent of female students choose STEM as their field of study. In Southeast Asia, women graduating in STEM fields vary from about 17 percent in Cambodia to 37 percent in Indonesia.

Women should be encouraged to study STEM as these lead to jobs that are crucial for the transition to low-carbon economies. Low-carbon livelihoods would be more in demand in the short- and medium-term to foster the transition.

“While there has been progress, the narrative on gender stereotypes has to change for more women to pursue STEM careers, and to venture into the potential of upskilling and reskilling. We also need to bring about greater climate awareness in the education system, and gender issues in climate can be made part of the curriculum in higher secondary education,” the authors said.

They also recommended boosting efforts to make clean energy accessible for all. This would also have a “multifaceted dimension for women.”

Serafica and Joffre said electricity can improve the conduct of businesses as well as education services. This can also reduce indoor air pollution through clean energy cooking resources.

Electricity can also reduce unpaid household work while electric vehicles and alternative transport such as cycling can improve the mobility of women.

However, the authors stressed that the diversification and decarbonization of the energy systems must include targeted support for the poorest in order for them to afford it.

“We must keep in mind that changes in energy costs can affect women differently as globally, on average, women still earn 20 percent less than men,” Serafica and Joffre said.

Further, the voices of women and other vulnerable sectors to climate change should be amplified to truly “leave no one behind.”

The needs of these sectors should be heard in order to influence policies on social protection and fair wages.

The authors said improving communication “can facilitate storytelling about nature-based solutions and indigenous knowledge systems, and help rally sectors to change the climate narrative in the region.”