International Women’s Day this year is all about Breaking the Bias to create a gender-equal world and equality for women. In the world of sustainability and climate change, we see this bias played out at many levels.
Our cofounder and sustainability expert, Jo Hand, shares why Breaking the Bias means so much to her, Giki, and to the future of our climate.
Women are on the frontline of climate change, and as a result, they are disproportionately affected. Women are underrepresented in leadership positions, so significantly hampered in driving through solutions.
Where female leadership blossoms, we see the impact and positive change happens.Jo Hand, Co-founder at Giki
Imagine how we could accelerate solutions to climate change if we break the bias? Imagine the skills, drive, and leadership women could bring. I believe this would be a major driver in helping the world solve one of the biggest dangers humanity has ever faced.
Women on the frontline of climate change
Breaking the bias would make a huge difference for women in some of the poorest parts of the world, already disadvantaged by poverty. They also frequently lack anything close to equal rights and are often disproportionately affected by climate change for several different reasons:
- Women typically earn less than men, contributing to their social disadvantage and having fewer resources to build resilience and defences to a changing climate. Globally women earn only 77c for every $1 earned by a man.
- Employment options for women are often limited. In many countries the majority of the female labour force work in agriculture, which can be heavily affected by climate change. Floods, droughts, and heatwaves can wipe out a whole season of crops.
- Labour migration connected to climate change also leaves women more vulnerable as men often leave areas affected by extreme weather to look for work elsewhere, leaving women and children behind in the most vulnerable areas.
Many women affected by these factors live in some of the poorest parts of the world, which are also often the same areas that are already feeling the most aggressive effects of climate change.
Lack of women in leadership roles
This situation is further exacerbated in most societies where women frequently lack leadership positions to make their voices heard to effect change. The shortage of women in leadership roles prevails across the globe. There was much criticism of the COP26 climate change conference held in Glasgow last year because the UK leadership team had such a low representation of women. This lack of women in leadership roles is witnessed across society:
- In the business sector – just over 8% of CEOs at the world’s largest companies, the Fortune 500, are women(6)
- Just 13 of over 200 countries have a female head of government
- Just 21% of government ministers are women.
So, even though women are disproportionately affected by climate change, they are also significantly under-represented in the most senior leadership roles.
But there’s good news when more women do take leadership roles.
Research shows a robust association between female representation in a country’s parliament and the stringency of its climate change policies. For example, the research cites Bahrain (2% female representation in parliament), compared with Denmark (37% female representation), and suggests that Denmark’s climate policies are 8 times more stringent. Imagine this bias playing out across governments in over 200 countries.
Imagine if we could break this bias, and how much stronger climate policies might be.Jo Hand, Co-founder at Giki
Women on the frontline of solutions to climate change
But despite this bias, both in terms of higher exposure to climate change impacts for women and low leadership representation, there are some extraordinary successes of women in delivering solutions to climate change.
- The architects of the ground-breaking 2015 Paris agreement were both women: Christiana De Figueres and Laurence Tubiana.
- Women are leading grassroots movements to fight climate change and the leader of the youth movement, Greta Thunberg, is a girl.
- All the companies we work with at Giki, 2/3 of the people leading the change are women. These women are mobilising their colleagues across geographies and business divisions to transform how they think about their carbon footprints and to measure the impacts of their actions. We also work with universities and community groups helping their communities ‘Think Carbon. Cut Carbon’.
- A recent report suggests that women outscore men on many leadership competencies. Strengths identified in female leaders include taking initiative, learning agility, inspiring, motivating, and developing others, as well as developing relationships. These are all crucial skills to solving the climate crisis.
I am fortunate to be born and live in the UK, where women have some of the best opportunities in the world. I was the first woman on the leadership team at CDP, the global climate change charity, and co-founded Giki, a B-Corp, with a mission to empower people with the knowledge and tools to reduce carbon and transform our world, step by step.
I often imagine how different the world might look if women across the globe had the same opportunities I have had. Let’s use this International Women’s Day to help Break the Bias and enable women to use their leadership skills to drive change that is positive for all humans, and which will protect our planet for nature and future generations.