A Women in the Workplace survey from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) reveals women across the green building industry are facing historic challenges in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Of nearly 500 women surveyed, 86 percent are feeling supported by employers, yet nearly 90 percent note they are still facing challenges when it comes to financial, familial and professional responsibilities.
“USGBC is committed to supporting and promoting women leaders across green building,” says Taryn Holowka, senior vice president of marketing, communications and advocacy at USGBC. “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.”
A United Nations study cautioned that COVID-19 could undo decades of meaningful progress around gender equity and more than 60 percent of women surveyed by USGBC concur. One survey respondent notes, “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.”
A Bureau of Labor Statistics report showed that since February 2020, women account for 55 percent of all jobs lost. For those who are self-employed or own their own business, the pandemic has created an additional layer of challenges. An independent architect commented that business has halted and “additionally, I have had to take care of all the housework, so the hours dedicated to find new projects are each day more limited.”
Greater flexibility, eliminating commutes and the opportunity to spend more time with family are some of the silver linings of remote work that have emerged. The vast majority of respondents also credit employers with being supportive of their circumstance 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.
Organizations in the green building space and beyond have an opportunity to support women in a number of ways, from training leaders to be empathizers to ensuring underrepresented employees feel seen and heard. Since 2012, USGBC has been working to elevate the voices of women in the green building industry through its Women in Green program. 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 heroes, or sheroes, from across more than 30 U.S. states who are challenging the status quo in their communities. Regional sheroes will be selected among the women recognized through a public vote taking place the week of Oct. 19. Those sheroes will be honored at the annual Women in Green event at Greenbuild on Nov. 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, Oct. 16, at midnight EST. Notifications of acceptance will go out by Monday, Oct. 26.