People Women In Construction

Women in Green: Empowering Women in Design

by Casey Williams

As Kira Gould and Lance Hosey emphasized in their 2007 book, “Women in Green: Voices of Sustainable Design,” women are leading the sustainable design movement, but are underrepresented in leadership. Gould and Hosey’s research shows that women on average are “more knowledgeable about climate change and energy-efficient design” than men, but hold under a third of leadership positions at architectural firms.

The inaugural Women in Green breakfast panel, held in 2018 / Photo courtesy of USGBC MA

Within the U.S. Green Building Council Massachusetts Chapter (USGBC MA), we consistently see a higher percentage of women attending USGBC MA programs than represented in the built environment industry in general. Within our Green Building Leadership Institute, which aims to help students and emerging professionals advance their careers in the sustainable design industry, we have found that 86% of our participants are female. Our board of directors has grown from having only a third of female representation to two thirds representation. Clearly, women are actively seeking opportunities for professional growth and leadership in sustainable design, which is why we felt the need to develop our own Women in Green programming.

The idea for the initiative began at the annual Women in Green Power Breakfast, which was hosted at the national U.S. Green Building Council’s annual conference, Greenbuild. When female-identifying architects, designers, and researchers from Massachusetts would come together at this event, everyone would always ask, “Why don’t we have something like this back home?” There was such a great demand for this type of programming that members of USGBC MA formed a steering committee to plan out our own version of Women in Green.

Inspired by Greenbuild and the research provided by Gould and Hosey, we developed our program with a focus on giving women the resources they need to pursue leadership opportunities in the architectural and design industries. We believe it’s important that female professionals not only have spaces to network with other female professionals, but opportunities to build a strong support system that lifts one another up.

This will be the third year we have hosted Women in Green events. Our flagship event, the Women in Green breakfast panel, follows in Greenbuild’s footsteps and features a panel of female professionals who are driven by an urge to diversify the voices that move the sustainability movement. The breakfast panels are so successful that we have created additional networking events throughout the year to continue conversations happening amongst female professionals.

Our next event, Women in Green: Culture of Courage, is slated for March 30 and will feature the perspectives of leaders within the sustainability movement, including Carol Gladstone, Laura Keenan, Kimberly Lewis, and Penni McLean-Connor. We hope that opportunities like this will help raise the voices of women within the design industry.

Casey Williams is the marketing and graphics associate at USGBC MA, soon to be called Built Environment Plus.