Working Women: Key to Promoting Energy Efficiency

Working Women: Key to Promoting Energy Efficiency

How women buy and how they work/lead is big news these days – no matter what brand, category, industry or organization.  When you think about how to start to change the culture around sustainable life and business practices, women also appear to be worth serious consideration.  This is particularly the case when you examine the “household manager” role and how women keep those responsibilities in mind all the time.

Let’s connect some dots: One of the reasons people begin to think seriously about sustainability is that it literally hits home- in terms of household energy use.  There’s nothing like the rising costs of winter warmth and lighting, for example, to shake us out of our blase-ness.  Working to keep those costs low is likely particularly compelling for those who manage the “operations” of the “facility.”  Whomever sees and arranges for the payment of those bills is at the front line.  If that person is also very conscious of daily family comfort, energy use becomes that much more important – and challenging.

This person sounds suspiciously like a woman and is probably a mom, but what else may be influencing her awareness and decisions?

If figuring out how to engage more citizens on sustainability is important now, and I firmly believe this is the case, beginning with the “facility management” minds of working women, in particular, should be a focus. A Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research study, commissioned by Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP) and the Women’s Council on Energy and the Environment (WCEE), is worth note on that front.

A few of this 2009 study’s general findings:

  • 77 percent of women take primary or equal responsibility for paying their electricity bills (with high percentages, whether married or unmarrried).
  • 91 percent take dominant or equal responsibility for using less electricity at home.
  • 97 percent have taken steps to use less electricity at home.

And, women business owners lead the way:

  • 98 percent of women business owners have cut their electricity use at home.
  • 77 percent have done the same for their businesses.
  • 79 percent have made their businesses environmentally friendly.
  • 87 percent strongly or somewhat favor clean energy and efficiency initiatives.

This would seem to suggest that the trend toward more women in the workforce, the recession-inspired household cutting back, and the rising consumer awareness  of -and increasing education about -sustainability creates a perfect, positive sustainability storm.

Women tend to think more holistically, integrating the linear/rational with emotional, or the left brain with the right.  This makes it a tad difficult to separate their work days from their home lives, as it all tends to flow together.  (In the case of energy efficiency that may be a really good thing.)

What if the women who own businesses (and that number is rapidly rising) are all the more primed for energy use behavioral change?   These women are super aware of how that which serves their business bottom line might also serve their household facility management bottom line – all the while keeping “constituents” (family or staff) happy and productive.

The implications for marketing energy efficiency and the related technology today are huge.  Focus on the biggest influencers, and reach them where they are already very concerned about your industry (where it hurts most immediately).  Women who own or manage businesses, and who may more likely be moms (and read green mom blogs!), will be at that market’s core.

***On a related note: a new study finds that people much more easily engage with the concept of “energy efficiency” than they do with “climate change.”  One is immediately felt (like a Vermonter’s January natural gas bill) and the other seems abstract and more like someone else’s problem.  Dave Thier, the writer of the AOL News article on the study, quotes one of the researchers:

“It’s a little bit disconcerting to me that Americans are more comfortable expressing their preferences as consumers than as a citizens,” said [Ed] Maibach.


Andrea writes exclusively for her blog, LearnedonWomen, and appears regularly on Vermont Public Radio.