Greenbuild 2017: Women in Green Power Breakfast

by Halie Colbourne, BCCI Assistant Sustainability Manager

Thursday, November 9th, 2017 hundreds of women woke up bright and early for Greenbuild’s Annual Women in Green Power breakfast. I’ve repeatedly heard great things from fellow Bay Area colleagues that this event is a must do. Each table was marked with a famous and fearless female leader: Oprah Winfrey, J.K. Rowling, and Michelle Obama to name a few. The focus theme was on democracy, and how our collective strength can shape powerful change for other women and the world of sustainability.

Kimberley Lewis and Taryn Holowka of the U.S. Green Building Council welcomed the group who gathered to share likeminded thoughts and inspiration for change. As breakfast was served, we discussed four questions which revolved around democracy, women and evoking change, in the workplace, in education, healthcare, technology, research, government and right in our own homes. One woman from each table shared thoughts and themes from our open shares. A woman shared that her workplace, a hospital, didn’t have a place for women to grieve. It wasn’t until another woman asked a male leader for this accommodation which thankfully was granted. The woman knew that a place to grieve was a necessity for all, and if she didn’t use her voice, there would be no change.

Next, four female guests were invited to the stage for a panel discussion: Rev. Mariama White-Hammond, Mindy Lubber JD, MDA, Rep. Patricia Haddad, and Senator Patricia Jehlen. Senator Jehlen shared an anecdote from her childhood: the nuns at her nursery school told her she could do anything she wants, except disturb the priest. She went on to say that she only partly listened to the nuns, and still does to this day, which gave the audience a moment of relief and laughter.

Both Rep. Haddah and Sen. Jehlen shared their achievements and service to their state of Massachusetts. Women are really good at evolving while maintaining their values, which is what both Haddad and Jehlen have done. They helped pass the equal pay bill in Massachusetts and helped the state become the first to put in a Request for Proposal for off-shore wind energy, a whopping 1,600MW. Jehlen joked, back in the day she was the “Queen of Coal,” but now she is the “Witch of Wind.” The deep-rooted values of Massachusetts revolve around democracy. Currently, the state is adopting parts of the Paris Climate Agreement. They understand that democracy means democracy for all, including women, minorities and our planet.

Many of the women shared examples of the value of democracy. Democracy doesn’t lead in one direction – it can go either way. But we are the ones accountable for this directionality. As women, we need to continue to be the change agents especially for the care and future of our planet. Many studies have illustrated the benefits of a diverse workplace. Female managers are better engaged than their male counterparts, 41 to 35 percent. Additionally, gender-diverse and ethnically-diverse companies are more likely to outperform others financially 15 and 35 percent, respectively.

As women, it’s of utmost importance to use our voices. We need to continue to speak up and make all women heard. Rev. Mariama White-Hammond left us with, “Kick those doors open. And bring others with you.” Our fight for the greater good, for sustainability, equality, and honesty has nothing to do with politics. It’s about our people and our planet.

Stay tuned for more Greenbuild 2017 takeaways.

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