About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Executive summary

Background and context

  • The transition to a ‘net-zero’ carbon economy will create demand for green jobs and skills. There is evidence that these jobs are desirable for workers and employers, but are limited by skills shortages.
  • However, there is currently a lack of understanding of the terms ‘green jobs’ and ‘green skills’. There is also evidence of a gender gap with women reporting lower understanding of, and less interest in, developing ‘green skills’ compared to men. Women are projected to hold just 25% of green jobs by 2030, impacting gender equality and the UK’s ability to meet labour demand.
  • It is likely that women’s underrepresentation in STEM disciplines may intersect with their lower understanding of, and interest in, green jobs and skills, given that many of these jobs and skills are related to STEM fields. This research, therefore, aimed to understand the barriers to participation in the green labour market faced by men and women beyond potential skills differences.
  • This research also focused on specific green jobs, to overcome the limitations of previous research that has tended to focus on ‘green jobs’ more broadly and therefore lacks nuanced insights into specific roles and barriers.

Key research questions

  • Are there gender differences in awareness of, and interest towards, ‘green jobs’ generally, as well as towards more specific STEM and non-STEM green jobs?
  • Is there a difference in the way men and women perceive potential barriers to working in specific STEM and non-STEM green jobs that are relevant to their educational and professional backgrounds?
  • To what extent do the perceptions of barriers vary across different green jobs?

What we did

  • We conducted a UK-wide survey with 2,385 men and women, spanning a range of educational and professional backgrounds.
  • Participants were asked about their awareness of, and interest in, ‘green jobs’ in general, before being assigned to one of six specific green jobs, based on their educational and professional background. For example, participants with a STEM background were assigned to a relevant STEM green job (eg, Renewable Energy Engineer).
  • Participants then answered a series of questions in relation to the green job they were assigned to. These questions assessed their awareness of the job’s requirements, overall impressions of the job, as well as perceptions of key job attributes, including salary, competitiveness and availability.

What we found

  • Understanding of the term ‘green jobs’ was low across both genders, with women having lower understanding than men. Thus, to improve awareness and understanding of green jobs, it may be more effective to refer to specific, tangible jobs or industries rather than using the broad term ‘green jobs’.
  • Among participants with STEM backgrounds, men showed stronger interest in STEM green jobs than women, while amongst participants with non-STEM backgrounds, women were more interested in non-STEM green jobs than men.
  • Women perceive themselves as less qualified and suitable for green jobs compared to men. These results are likely not unique to green jobs, but reflect underlying gender differences in self-perception.
  • There is a gap between participants' slight to moderate interest in green jobs and their lack of clear intention to apply for specific green jobs. Emphasising job and career benefits such as pay, job security and flexibility, alongside green jobs’ social impact, may help bridge this gap.
  • Finally, encouraging individuals to consider new career paths is challenging. One strategy for facilitating a green career transition could involve helping individuals identify green jobs that closely align with their current skill sets and professional experiences. Encouraging early interest in green jobs and incorporating green skills into education could also boost future green workforce participation.

This report is part of our policy library for decarbonising home heating

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Dr Jelka Stojanov

Jelka is an advisor in the Work & Equalities team at the Behavioural Insights Team, focusing on improving diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace.

Dr Georgina Bremner

Georgie is a senior advisor in the Economic Growth & Productivity team at the Behavioural Insights Team, focusing on firm decision-making, industrial strategy and organisational behavi…