News & Opinion | June 19, 2019 5:05 pm

America’s Fastest Growing Industry Is Leaving Women Behind

In 2016, one out of every 50 new jobs in America was related to solar energy

Energy industry
Clean energy is America's fastest-growing industry. (Joe Raedle/Getty)

The booming clean energy industry might be the future, but its massive gender gap is a fact that is firmly rooted in the past.

While clean-energy companies are increasingly run by women, with a quarter of leadership roles held by females according to Bloomberg, the “rank-and-file” workforce that make up the bulk of the industry is predominantly male and white. Manufacturing job hiring is responsible for this discrepancy, which sees women standing on the outside looking in at America’s next great job market.

“I have about 170 people on site at this project down in South Texas, and I think I have close to 10 percent female,” Kim Smith, the vice president of construction for the Spanish renewable energy developer Acciona SA, told Bloomberg. “It’s nowhere near enough. What would be enough? Enough would be 50-50.”

Two positions in particular, solar installer and wind-turbine technician, are the fastest-growing professions in the country, and should be in the number-one spot in terms of growth by 2026, Bloomberg reported. The industry as a whole is already proving how dominant it will be: in 2016, one out of every 50 new jobs in America was related to solar energy. Just three years later, clean power jobs make up about a third of all the roles that fall under the energy umbrella.

But women make up only 13 percent of the workforce that powers this rapidly growing industry, according to findings from the Brookings Institution.

One potential reason for this imbalance may be the choices parents make in early childhood: consider how boys are encouraged to play with building blocks and toy trucks, while girls tend to be gifted dolls and faux jewelry kits. Bloomberg noted that young men are also more often and heartily prompted to pursue degrees and careers in engineering, science and technology than their female peers.

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