By Madeline Janis
This column originally appeared in Forbes.
The Green New Deal is dominating the headlines, but what does this really mean for workers? A new report released by the Brookings Institute today offers some important insights.
The report, “Advancing inclusion through clean energy jobs,” presents the manufacturing sector with a big opportunity: to hire and train the next generation of workers for good clean energy jobs – jobs which are generally higher-paying, yet often have fewer educational requirements. But manufacturers still have a recruitment problem: and not surprisingly this “green vision” for the future is leaving many workers – including women and communities of color – behind.
According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, there will be 533,000 good middle-skill jobs available over the next decade in manufacturing. Right now, only 7 percent of workers in these jobs are women. While some business leaders stand by the false narrative that women are “not cut out for that type of work” or “don’t like to get dirty,” at Jobs to Move America, we know they’re dead wrong.
That’s why we created a program called Women Can Build: Re-envisioning Rosie. Through a powerful series of images showing women from all walks of life welding, wiring, assembling and painting heavy machinery, we are shifting this narrative and empowering women to work in fields traditionally dominated by white men. The program features modern-day Rosie’s like Ruby Diaz, a quality control technician who was “a little intimidated with so many male coworkers,” but soon proved her outstanding mechanical and electrical skills. Or Ami Rasmussen, an interior assembly foreman, who wants to “lead by example” and “show women that they can do anything they put their minds to.”
Because they can.
Last month was Women’s History Month, but we should really be thinking about racial and gender equity all 365 days of the year. We should be investing not only in a clean energy workforce, but a more inclusive, well-paying, and just one. For businesses, that means being intentional about expanding the labor pool and opening up access to clean energy jobs through recruitment, hiring and job training. It also means working with labor unions and community organizations to eliminate any barriers to employment for historically-underrepresented groups, including women and people of color.
But training and education, as proposed by the Brookings Report, can’t stand on its own. Right now, the manufacturing sector is mainly focused on maximizing shareholder value. This laser-focus often leads companies to make the easiest choice (i.e. hire white men with previous mechanical training or low-skilled people to do these jobs), rather than the more equitable and sustainable one.
Here’s how we can change this economic calculus: by tying public investment in job creation to creating jobs for people who have been historically marginalized from clean energy and manufacturing, among other growing sectors. Forward-thinking policies like these will ensure that clean energy and technology companies have a direct stake in hiring women, people of color, veterans, and other people facing barriers to employment.
And that’s a (Green) New Deal worth taking.