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November 12-15, 2024
Pennsylvania Convention CenterPhiladelphia, PA

Greenbuld Blog

Recognizing the Women Driving the Sustainability Industry

By Sherida Sessa

I couldn’t let March (Women’s History Month) end without a shout-out to the many women who influenced the sustainability movement and green building. Their  passion, actions, and words will take us into the future. 

We’ve all heard of Greta Thunberg, one of the youngest and most fearless climate change activists.

Let’s not forget Rachel Carson, whose groundbreaking book Silent Spring became a bestseller in the 1960s. But even going further back in history, women have been speaking up and building awareness of how fragile Mother Earth is. 

And what about Christiana Figueres? Globally renowned as a tireless sustainability leader, she served as Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), assuming responsibility for the international negotiations. 

As we look forward to Greenbuild 2022, we realize how far women in environmentalism still have to go. Let's also pay homage to the everyday heroines who take steps to inspire, make a change, and lead this critical movement.

The Numbers Tell the Story

A recent study showed that women are leading the charge towards a more sustainable planet.

Close to 60 percent of senior executives at large companies’ sustainability initiatives are women, according to a recent survey. 

The same study indicates that women consumers make buying decisions with environmental considerations in mind.

Here are some areas we need to focus on as we build more sustainable communities.

  • A mere 17 percent of licensed architects are women, according to the AIA. Although that’s up significantly from 4 percent in 1988, our gender is currently under-represented in the design stages of sustainable development.
  • Only 10.9 percent of construction employees are women. 
  • Women hold only just 32 percent of renewable energy roles. 

Let’s work to change that and look at the positives and the huge opportunity that lies before us. 

Women are beginning to speak up and play a significant role in the future of sustainable development.

  • These women leaders have been heralded for their activism and innovations, championing initiatives that build a better planet. 
  • Recently, the USGBC celebrated several women who are spearheading sustainable building and development around the world, showcasing their innovative projects.
  • Globally, grants are now available for women with sustainability missions
  • Not only is the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo led by women (along with a diverse team of changemakers), we host events each year to discuss and brainstorm solutions to environmental and social justice issues. We have also featured wonderful inspirational keynote speakers like:
    • Amal Clooney
    • Hillary Clinton
    • Dr. Bernice King
  • Women in Green was created by the USGBC in 2012 and has been steadily growing and evolving to reflect the needs of this vibrant community. More than 5,000 women worldwide participate in the mission, culminating in an annual luncheon at our Greenbuild conference. 

Keep this momentum going. As we push towards our sustainability goals, let's all build a community that is truly diverse and inclusive.

What Can You Do?

Encourage women to pursue careers in architecture, construction, and community development.

Provide mentorship programs and teach your children at an early age about sustainable living, diversity and inclusion, and social justice. 

Look within your own organization to ensure that your team represents the market you’re serving. 

And be sure to join us throughout the year for a variety of programs that educate, inspire, and celebrate people of all backgrounds.

Denise Rosplock, VP of Sustainability Delivery for Informa North America, stresses the role of education and mentorship in preparing girls for the wide range of  jobs of the future. She asserts:

“We’re living in an era of incomparable business transformation.  While science remains at the heart of that journey – and percent of women in climate-related STEM is growing – the demand for sustainability thought leadership in marketing, finance, procurement is also growing.  Today’s sustainability professional is defined more broadly and that’s good news for women.  A small investment in climate education opens the door to a wide variety of high demand sustainability roles.”

That view is consistent with our vision for Greenbuild 2022, which broadens the definition of “building” to include the transformation and sustainability  of communities, cultures, and communications.

Let's all hope we live in a world one day where Women’s History Month will simply be a reminder of how far we’ve come!

About the Author

Sherida Sessa, Brand Director

Sherida Sessa is the Portfolio Director for the Greenbuild International Conference + Expo and Informa Connect’s North American Construction and Buildings Events. In this role, she oversees all strategy and planning for the Greenbuild event annually, including constant innovation to deliver a sustainable, zero-waste event.

Under her leadership, Greenbuild has hosted top-level keynote speakers like President Barack Obama, architect of the historic Paris Climate agreement, Christiana Figueres, activist Bernice King, writer, actor, and director Dan Levy and more. In 2019, Greenbuild became one of the first events to earn the Events Industry Council Sustainable Event Standards Platinum level certification.

In 2021, Greenbuild delivered a safe, secure in-person event in San Diego, CA, propelling the industry forward after a year of uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The event reenergized the sector, achieving TRUE Zero Waste Platinum Certification for the fourth time while adhering to Informa’s new AllSecure industry safety standards.

Sherida has a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and a master’s degree from Marist College. Prior to her role with Greenbuild, she ran the ISC Security Events at Reed Exhibitions, which attracted over 30,000 industry professionals and 1,000 exhibitors and brands at the flagship event in Las Vegas. As part of her current role with Informa, Sherida also oversees the BUILDEX events in Canada and The Buildings Show in Toronto.