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Joan Michelson

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Looking for a Job?

Posted: 08/22/2012 4:48 pm

Looking for a job? Between 1 and 3 million new U.S. manufacturing jobs are being created in the energy field over the next 5 to 10 years. But before you say "I'm not an engineer," remember: They hire administrative assistants, marketers, project managers, bookkeepers and finance people too, that is, all levels and skills.

This growth spurt is the result of new technological innovations in the natural gas field, especially in shale, according to George Blitz, vice president of Energy and Climate Change of Dow Chemical on Platt's Energy Week recently. He explained it as a result of the oil and gas industry's investment of $70 billion in 90 projects. It sounds like energy is one place to look.

A recent Brookings Institution study found that the green economy is growing at 8%, far outpacing the overall national economy, and that "(m)edian wages in the clean economy... are 13 percent higher than median U.S. wages." STEM jobs in general pay $7,000 per year more than traditional jobs. So look here too.

Who will land these jobs? Probably men. The top research organization Catalyst lists "the percent of U.S. women and men employed in select occupations in the mining, quarrying, oil and gas extraction industries, 2011" as 87.9% men and 12.1% women.

This is ironic because women drive the economy, making 80% of the purchasing decisions "Women represent nearly two-thirds of breadwinners or co-breadwinners for all U.S. households," Rebecca Lefton, senior policy analyst at the Center for American Progress told me. "Therefore, ensuring that women have equal access to STEM-related jobs and are fairly compensated is essential for the security of families and the middle class.

Is it good economics for 50% of the population to be left out of this jobs boom? Women: Apply anyway!

That said, creating millions of new jobs, and higher paying ones is great news. Innovation driving job creation. But is it a bright spot in an otherwise bleak landscape?

U.S. Innovation Stuck in Neutral

A recent OECD report raised a red flag about the U.S.' sacred cow -- global leadership in innovation. The July 2012 survey issued by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development found that the U.S. has slowed down in innovation and is in risk of losing its number one status. At a National Press Club announcement of OECD's findings recently, OECD Ambassador Karen Kornbluh recommended the U.S. do three things to ensure its leadership in innovation:

(1) Increase short-term investment to increase employment quickly;
(2) improve education, especially in science, technology, engineering and math; and
(3) increase investment overall in innovation.

The OECD report says, "Innovation occurs at the point where knowledge is transformed into valuable new products or processes." That is, commercialization and that's where jobs are created.

But the report also says that "seed/start-up financing has diminished" with a remarkable chart showing a spike in growth around the millennium (2000) due to the dot com boom. If seed money is frozen, government is cutting back its investments in innovation, and big companies are taking light years to innovate, then where will innovation come from?

A Crisis of Management Innovation?

"What we really have is a lack of management innovation," according to NIREC Entrepreneur-in-Residence John Argo. "Often, it's not about building value; it's about extracting value -- financial engineering over true innovation and performance improvement."

"Private equity and, to an extent, venture capital cultures are very much an old boys' network. Partners, largely white men, will augment and often replace management and founders with their buddies and they hermit crab themselves into these new shells. And their buddies usually look like them and have similar backgrounds."

"It's a lack of operational innovation, a lack of new business models like Google or FedEx developed in their time. Bringing women -- more diverse talents, perspectives, and disciplines -- into management should help invigorate management innovation."

McKinsey documented it too. Companies with greater diversity in senior management and on their boards of directors are more innovative, have better financial results, are more financially responsible, and are more focused on sustainability and customer service.

Would these oil and gas companies have been more innovative faster -- and therefore created these millions of new jobs faster -- if they'd had more women in leadership? Would women be landing more of those oil and gas industry jobs if there were more women in their leadership teams?

We need intrapreneurs -- innovators, catalysts who drive innovation in large organizations -- and the job creation that comes with their magic. We need courageous bosses to hire these creative thinkers and stand by them while they rock the boat, challenge assumptions and blur turf lines. (Hint: Many are women.)

We can't settle for 1-3 million new jobs every 5-10 years in one industry at a time for half the population.

(And don't get me started on the negative consequences of these advances in shale...)

 

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