by Liz O’Donnell (Boston)
Even as traditional jobs are being cut, “green” jobs are opening up, creating hot new career opportunities for executive women.
Green Jobs in the Fortune 500 & Finance
Ford Motor Company clearly recognizes the role women can play in leading sustainability efforts. The top sustainable business and engineering jobs at Ford Motor Company are filled by women. Sue Cischke, Group Vice President, Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering, is responsible for establishing the company’s long range sustainability strategy and environmental policy. And Nancy Gioia, who describes her job as “delivering products that make a difference every day,” is Ford’s Director, Sustainable Mobility Technologies and Hybrid Vehicle Programs. Gioia says green jobs offer “tremendous opportunities” for women. To succeed she says, “You have to perform. You have to have a personal passion to make a difference. Each and every day we can make an impact.”
Women are also showing up in senior positions at “green” funds. At Winslow Green Mutual Funds, a global growth equity fund which invests primarily in equity securities of companies that are providing solutions to environmental challenges, two women— Karina Funk and Elizabeth Levy—work in equity research. And Wendy Wendlandt is President, Green Century Capital Management and a Trustee of Green Century Funds, a family of environmentally responsible mutual funds.
Green Jobs = Meaningful Work
Women leading sustainability efforts makes sense. Many women who drop out of Corporate America to start their own companies cite the inability to align a company’s business objectives with their personal values as one of the reason’s they leave. Sustainability can be an opportunity to align personal values with meaningful work. Plus, many of the traits typically associated with women at work, are necessary in this emerging field. “We look at the world differently and we look at lifecycle differently,” says Gioia. She also points out the fact that women often manage risk differently than men, something Wall Street is starting to understand. There have been recent discussions in the financial community about balancing aggressive risk strategies, often considered a male trait, with a longer term approach to risk, typically considered a female trait. Sustainability, says Gioia, is a system and building systems requires a collaborative approach. “No one entity can get it done.”
Ellen Weinreb agrees. “Anything that has a sustainability project or strategy, it’s often a long term approach. The triple bottom line is often long term.” Weinreb, the founder of Sustainability Recruiting, helps fill sustainability positions and has consulted with companies including Levi Strauss, Hewlett Packard, and Clorox.
Becoming a “Green Leader”
In the paper “Centre for Corporate Responsibility: Who Should Head Up Your
Corporate Responsibility Approach?” published by Odgers Berndtson & The Doughty
Centre for Corporate Responsibility, co-authors Stuart Morton and David Grayson discuss the key attributes of a corporate responsibility director. They write, “Nevertheless, the background or at least aptitude for complex communications skills to enable strategic definition, team leadership and board level influence continues to be required.”
Alexia Vernon, a leadership coach and expert on socially conscious leadership, says, “Our nation is demanding green leaders who can ensure that the short and long term impacts of individual, business, and government actions on local, national, and international communities are for the greater good. This means leaders will need to possess such traditional female traits as balancing vision and mission, effective communication, consensus building, and ethical decision making to carry out these roles successfully.” Vernon cites Environmental Social Responsibility Officer and Environmental Attorney as two of the best green jobs for women.
“Green jobs include any job that is good for society, generates a profit, and honors the environment. While many green labor jobs may go to men, women will be as qualified, if not more so, for the many positions necessary to facilitate and sustain our nation’s transition to a green economy,” says Vernon.
Vernon suggests women interested in green careers conduct informational interviews with officers in the companies where they seek employment to learn more about the opportunities. As Kate Winkler, Senior Director and Chief Sustainability Officer at EMC Corporation, says in a blog post about a typical day on the job, “…if, like me, you thrive on adventure, surprise, and occasional lulls scattered between periods of frantic activity, then this may be just the ticket. So what do you think – does it sound like the life for you?”