Gender equity and environmental sustainability might seem like unrelated issues, but research implies that they are actually closely intertwined. Women along with other underserved groups are disproportionately influenced by the global climate crisis, however they may also be uniquely positioned to lead the fight for sustainability. In this piece, the authors offer six ways of help business and political leaders empower women and address environmental challenges via an intersectional method of sustainability. Ultimately, they argue that to tackle climate change (and also the myriad other sustainability challenges that face todays organizations), leaders must acknowledge the complexity and interconnectedness of the issues and work to build up integrated solutions that may improve all of them.
Because the climate crisis becomes increasingly urgent, organizations all over the world have begun purchasing a variety of environmental sustainability initiatives. A few of these efforts target technological solutions, while some prioritize behavioral or economic changes, but what a large proportion have as a common factor is really a single-minded concentrate on reducing carbon emissions. Also to be sure, that is a significant goal but an evergrowing body of research shows that real progress on environmental sustainability requires solutions that also incorporate social sustainability, and specifically, gender equity.
What does gender want to do with environmental sustainability? Both of these issues might seem unrelated, however they are actually closely intertwined. Indeed, a thorough report from US (UN) Women discovered that women are disproportionately impacted by most or even all the challenges highlighted in the UNs Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For instance, natural disasters (that have become more prevalent because of the climate crisis) often disproportionately affect women, children, the indegent, older people, and the disabled, whose perspectives often go unheard or ignored. Women and girls in lots of regions in the Global South are usually in charge of collecting water, which becomes far more taxing during droughts, and in Europe, women tend to be more likely than men to call home in flood zones, where in fact the impact of climate change is felt most severely. Studies also have shown that gender-based violence, including physical, psychological, and reproductive violence against women, becomes more frequent after natural disasters, with complex and far-reaching consequences on health insurance and well-being.
Furthermore, many policies and initiatives made to address environmental issues achieve this while ignoring as well as actively harming women along with other underserved groups. For instance, women and poorer households are usually affected more negatively by environmental policies such as for example expansions of public transport, carbon pricing, and taxes, because these policies often forget the needs of women and underserved groups (e.g., by optimizing public transit for traditional 9-to-5 commutes instead of school pickup routes, or by increasing the costs of goods which women and families rely). Similarly, in a single case, climate-driven efforts to set up clean cooking stoves were discontinued when organizers realized their effect on emissions was smaller than initially expected, disregarding the unexpected positive byproduct these stoves improved womens and childrens safe practices.
This carbon tunnel vision causes well-meaning leaders to forget the broader sustainability conversation, ultimately limiting their capability to achieve environmental or social sustainability goals. Moreover, even though organizations do consider social issues alongside environmental ones, both topics tend to be isolated in one another. Despite their clear connections, companies often set separate goals for every sustainability dimension, leading many top executives and board directors to concur that insufficient has been done to link social sustainability and diversity with climate goals.
The good thing is, while women are specially vulnerable in this climate crisis, also, they are uniquely positioned to do something as powerful agents of change. Normally, women have smaller carbon footprints than men, more-responsible attitudes towards climate change, and greater interest in protecting the surroundings, with notable examples including activist Greta Thunberg, primatologist Jane Goodall, and consumer advocate Erin Brockovich. Female leaders already are tackling the climate crisis from the grassroots around the top degrees of the organization world, with studies showing that organizations with an increase of female executives and board members have better performance with regards to both environmental impact and broad corporate social responsibility (CSR) goals. Indeed, research has identified a definite female leadership advantage: Women have already been proven far better leaders both in normal times and during crises like the Covid-19 pandemic (in the U.S. and across 91 countries), and the info suggests this advantage reaches the climate crisis aswell.
Just how can organizations empower more women to lead just how in fighting the climate crisis? Through both our very own extensive research into intersectional sustainability and a thorough overview of the literature in these fields, weve identified six tips for leaders:
1. Promote womens representation in climate policy and decision-making.
Women are underrepresented in politics and strategic decision-making generally, in addition to in climate politics more specifically. To close this gap, leaders should explicitly support the inclusion of ladies in political spaces, including by nominating, sponsoring, not to mention, voting for female candidates. Simultaneously, its also vital that you avoid relegating women exclusively to special, womens spaces. For instance, well-intentioned initiatives like the UN climate conference COP26s dedicated day for gender issues and Ladies in Finance Climate Action Group can find yourself reducing womens representation in the mainstream political arena. The reason being they are able to both push women and womens topics into these special spaces (and therefore out of mainstream spaces) and bias visitors to believe women only belong in these separate, less valued spaces.
In order to avoid falling into this trap, leaders may take active steps such as for example declining to take part in events where men are over-represented (e.g., all-male panels, or manels, and male-majority conferences, or manferences). Conversely, if youre organizing a meeting and having difficulty finding female speakers, consider extending your shortlist to force you to ultimately look beyond the original candidates, as evidence shows that simple strategy can enhance womens representation and participation in critical decision-making arenas.
2. Craft narratives that inspire girls and women to pursue STEM careers.
Today, women constitute just 27% of the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce. There are a number of systemic barriers that donate to this disparity, but leaders might help bring more women into vital fields linked to climate science and engineering by rethinking how they talk about these roles and who they imply belongs inside them across their internal and external communications.
For instance, when crafting job descriptions for technical positions, organizations can remove language that assumes these roles require masculine-coded traits such as for example brilliance, replace stereotypically masculine words such as for example competitive and dominant with an increase of gender neutral terms, and emphasize how these positions will undoubtedly be a chance to improve society and help others, as research shows that communal goals have a tendency to resonate more with women. Furthermore, assessing applicants predicated on job-relevant education and experience instead of penalizing them for unrelated factors such as for example career breaks can lessen bias against women time for the workforce after maternity or caregiving leaves.
Beyond addressing bias in hiring, leaders may also challenge pervasive masculinity ideals by spotlighting female role models. Specifically, studies show that role models who exemplify both femininity and success could be impressive for drawing women to STEM fields.
3. Narrow the gender data gap.
Without data on the intersection of social and environmental sustainability, its difficult to find out how climate change may affect various groups, aside from develop evidence-backed answers to address these issues. Today, a persistent gender data gap limits many organizations capability to disaggregate data by gender along with other demographic groups, rendering it impossible to recognize and focus on these interconnected challenges.
To create real progress on sustainability, organizations have to collect better data while protecting individual privacy. Among other activities, that means making certain to add data on gender even yet in areas that may seem gender neutral, such as for example when analyzing the impact of policies that mandate long work hours, because deeply embedded gender norms and structures can donate to gender inequalities with techniques which can be hard to predict or detect. Its also important to make sure that women who drop from the workforce are accounted for, whether through exit interviews or other data sources, both to recognize and address the main causes driving womens turnover also to enable leaders to create decisions which are informed just as much by the ladies who leave as those that stay. Not to mention, along with making these changes themselves, organizations should encourage their suppliers and partners to get and report gender-disaggregated data aswell, as research shows that even companies which have made great strides in meeting social sustainability goals often (knowingly or unknowingly) use suppliers who flagrantly violate those same standards.
4. Report on your own performance for E, S, Gand their intersections.
ESG means Environmental, Social, and Governance yet with regards to measuring and reporting on ESG performance, many companies battle to move beyond the E. Executives often focus exclusively on metrics linked to carbon emissions, with little attention paid to other critical the different parts of social sustainability and governance. So when they do report on social components of ESG, its often with superficial metrics such as for example diversity head counts, which hardly capture nuanced insight into questions such as for example employees experiences of inclusion, growth opportunities, etc.
To handle this gap, executives can begin by considering metrics like the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) standards a practical tool to greatly help companies increase ESG transparency by embedding SDGs into corporate reporting. They are able to also get creative and identify other social ESG metrics which may be highly relevant to their businesses, like the UNs Human Rights HOMEWORK assessment. Furthermore, its very important to leaders to remain updated as new standards are developed, basically, for organizations like the International Sustainability Standards Board to keep to boost on the rules they offer, making certain companies are empowered to report not merely on a wide selection of sustainability metrics, but additionally on the intersections.
5. Normalize men caring about climate.
In lots of cultures, folks are socialized from early childhood to see caring about environmental issues as feminine. But asking women to exclusively carry the responsibility of protecting the environment undermines progress on both environmental and social sustainability fronts. Its long overdue for leaders to proactively challenge prevailing social norms around masculinity and encourage men to work alongside women to handle these critical conditions that affect people.
One method to do this would be to encourage men to spotlight another facet of their identity. For instance, research shows that men with daughters could be more motivated to fight for social sustainability and climate justice. Similarly, Swedish non-profit MN is rolling out a conversation guide to greatly help male leaders acknowledge and redefine masculinity norms of their organizations, providing them with the various tools to are more active participants in driving equality and sustainability solutions.
Ignorance is not any excuse for inaction. Its around leaders to continuously identify and fill the gaps within their own knowledge. As a starting place, leaders should become aware of basic facts and figures linked to gender equality and climate change, consider taking individual-level action, and follow climate influencers and verified scientific sources on social media marketing. They are able to also consider joining initiatives centered on addressing sustainability issues, a lot of which are actively growing and seeking collaboration partners. For instance, the World Business Council for Sustainability Development is really a CEO-led community of business leaders centered on sustainability, while organizations such as for example Transparentem and CHTCS offer resources that help organizations assess and reduce unsustainable practices across their supply chains, including those linked to both environmental and social impact.
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Needless to say, gender is merely one social category. A really intersectional method of sustainability must consider not only gender, but additionally factors such as for example age, race, location, socioeconomic status, and much more. It must acknowledge the limitations of most these categories for instance, analyses that treat gender as a binary (including a lot of those cited in this post), while useful in a few contexts, may also be inherently flawed within their exclusion of people who dont belong to the traditional types of people. To tackle climate change (along with the myriad other sustainability challenges that face todays organizations), leaders must acknowledge the complexity and interconnectedness of the issues and work to build up integrated solutions which will improve all of them.