Illinois Fact Sheet

Creating Opportunities for Low-Income Women in the Green Economy

Chicago Foundation for Women is a leading member of the Women's Economic Security Campaign. The campaign's brief, Creating Opportunities for Low-Income Women in the Green Economy (PDF), posits that the green job transformation gives low-income women nationwide a rare chance to get in on the ground floor of a new employment sector. It demonstrates a clear need for women, particularly single women with children, to access higher-wage work. But for women to take full advantage of the green jobs opportunity, they need programs in place that will train and retain women in skilled trades and other non-traditional occupations. The brief includes a Poverty Impact Statement explaining how green jobs can provide low-income mothers a pathway out of poverty.

Low-income women in Illinois need opportunities for family economic security

  • In Illinois in 2008, 36.9% of households headed by single mothers are living in poverty, compared to 17.1% of single fathers and 5.3% of dual-headed households with children. Of all families in poverty, 52.3% are single mothers with children under age 18. [1]
  • Nearly 60% of all low-wage workers in Illinois are women, though women make up only 45.8 % of the state's workforce. [2]
  • Out of the six earning categories defined by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 61.2% of employed females in Illinois are concentrated in the three lowest categories, compared to 42.2% of men. [3]

Women in Chicago and Illinois must have access to higher-wage green jobs

The green jobs transformation has already begun in Chicago. Though exact numbers are hard to calculate, new Robyn Bush, ironworker on a wind farm who was trained by Chicago Women in Tradesenvironmental protections instituted under the Chicago Climate Action Plan will create thousands of green jobs in retrofitting, renewable energy installation and green infrastructure, as well a broad range of new business and economic development opportunities. [4] Thousands more jobs will be created as a result of the $7.4 million Chicago has received from federal stimulus funds earmarked for green jobs.

As the national report indicates, jobs in the green economy tend to be high-paying positions with benefits, but they are concentrated in sectors with very limited representation of women. The report's Poverty Impact Statement [5] outlines the effect that green jobs could have on women and mothers currently making poverty-level wages. The report offers concrete steps that businesses and policymakers, both nationally and locally, can take to help low-income women secure green jobs and set their families on the path to long-term economic security.

We thank the following funders for supporting WESC's national work, and the dedicated local funders who help to support our local grantmaking, education and advocacy.

W.K. Kellogg Foundation logo

Ford Foundation logo

Sara Lee Foundation logo

The Libra Foundation logo

Allstate Foundation logo

Chicago Foundation for Women funds local efforts to include women in green jobs

Two local groups, Chicago Women in Trades and Women Employed, have received Chicago Foundation for Women grants in connection with the Women’s Economic Security Campaign's research release. Their work is vital to helping Chicago's women workers take advantage of green job opportunities.

Chicago Women in Trades works to increase the number of women in the skilled trades and other blue collar occupations--male-dominated industries that will experience green job growth. CWIT engages in job training, advocacy and research related to tradeswomen and the nontraditional workplace. CWIT hopes to improve the relevancy of training geared toward apprenticeship programs, as well as ensure that women are ready and able to benefit from green jobs that will be accessible outside of the apprenticeship system, such as weatherization. A grant from Chicago Foundation for Women will support curriculum development and continuing exploration of opportunities, requirements and strategies to bridge women to green jobs and construction careers.

Women Employed is a leading national advocate for women's economic advancement. As more federal training dollars for green jobs have become available, WE has focused on effective workforce development strategies to ensure that green jobs proposals prioritize women, minorities and low-income people. The group is also working with community colleges to help them get green jobs training funds, attract women to the programs, and use green job training plans that are accessible to people with low literacy levels. 


What will the Women's Economic Security Campaign address next?

Logo for Women's Economic Security Campaign (WESC)
In the coming months, the Women's Economic Security Campaign will release three additional briefs on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Child Care Development Block Grants and the Workforce Investment Act.

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1. U.S. Census Bureau, 2008 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates. Table B17010: Poverty Status in the Past 12 Months of Families by Family Type by Presence of Related Children Under 18 Years by Age of Related Children – Universe: Families.

2. The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability and Northern Illinois University Center for Governmental Studies and Office for Social Policy Research (2008). Low Wage Employment in Illinois. Retrieved from

3. Ibid.

4. The United States Conference of Mayors (2008). First Metro Green Jobs Report Projects 4.2 Million Jobs by 2038. Retrieved from

5. Women's Economic Security Campaign and Wider Opportunities for Women (2009). Creating Opportunities for Low-Income Women in the Green Economy. Retrieved from