MAKING SENSE OF GENDER-CLIMATE-NEXUS – THE JOURNEY OF THE WOMEN4CLIMATEACTION DARING CIRCLE
Evidence shows that women are disproportionately impacted by climate change. However,
women are also powerful agents of change who can accelerate and scale up climate action.
The Women’s Forum for the Economy & Society’s Women4ClimateAction (W4CA) Daring Circle
(DC) explores the challenges and aims to unlock opportunities at the gender-climate nexus. Our
work promotes initiatives and solutions to empower women to lead actions against climate
change and to accelerate the transition to a greener economy. The Daring Circle convenes
experts across business, policy, civil society and academia, with partners including BNP Paribas,
KPMG, AXA, Microsoft, P&G, Engie, CARE France, HEC Paris, ClimateSeed, the Ministère de la
transition écologique, the International Transport Forum and more.
Since its inception in 2018, the Daring Circle has conducted research and produced a series of
tools and reports to advance its objectives.
- ‘Women leading climate action’ report explores the imperative to consider gender and climate change together to create a sustainable and equal world through a scenario-planning approach
- ‘Women leading the green recovery’ report details how women’s inclusion in key disciplines like green STEM and entrepreneurship could accelerate a green recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
- ‘Building a sustainable and equal world for all’ report outlines the implications of climate justice for businesses – looking beyond gender to other socio-economic intersections with climate change.
- ‘Action Toolkit on Women Leading Climate Action’ builds on the Daring Circle’s Charter for Engagement – released at the G20 in 2019 and signed by over 500 businesses, public-sector institutions and business leaders – and details concrete actions for private-sector companies to implement and measure progress across 5 aspects of the gender-climate nexus: leadership, education, access to means of action, data and ﬁnance.
This Action Toolkit on Women Leading Climate Action is reﬂective of a wider shift for the Daring Circle. It is time – both for the Circle and the private sector more broadly – to prioritise rapid and transformative action. Moving forward, as we continue to build awareness of this all-important nexus, the Daring Circle will focus on supporting our partners and the wider private sector community to implement gender responsive approaches to climate action.
The ﬁrst step to taking action is understanding the challenges (and opportunities) at hand. Drawing on the Daring Circle’s work and partner insights, this article explores the ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ of the gender-climate nexus for businesses.
‘What’ are the ways in which gender and climate intersect, and ‘why’ combine eﬀorts on gender and climate?
The three imperatives for considering the gender-climate nexus illustrate the ways in which gender and climate intersect, and why these intersections are crucial to consider – both for companies’ own activities and sustainability strategies, and for broader societal and environmental outcomes.
- Women are disproportionately impacted by climate change: Women and other underserved groups are especially vulnerable to the climate crisis.1 Around 80% of climate refugees are women2 and women are 14 times more likely to die than men during climate-related disasters.3 Gender norms and social prejudice drive these imbalanced impacts. Private spaces – where women undertake the majority of unpaid household and care work – are often located beyond the boundaries of early warning systems for natural disasters. Increasingly severe climate-change-induced droughts also increase pressure on women and girls to collect scarce water and fuel. .
A gendered approach to climate action is vital in addressing these impacts. For business, adopting an intersectional approach can enhance supply chain resilience. In agricultural supply chains in low-income countries for instance, where women make up 48% of those in agricultural employment4, providing female farmers with low-cost green ﬁnance for climate-smart practices, and engaging the wider farming community to shift social norms, can increase their ability to cope with climate risks (such as ﬂoods and droughts). This helps companies mitigate supply chain disruptions, while enhancing women’s resilience to climate change.
- Women are powerful agents of change who can accelerate and scale up climate action: Innovation is key to mitigating and adapting to climate change. Data shows that diverse teams are more innovative and perform better than homogenous groups.5 While we know that women’s participation in leadership positions improves the ambition and delivery of sustainability-related policies,6 today women make up a small proportion of climate leadership teams. For instance, only 34% of COP26 committee members were women and at the 2021 G7 Summit, there was only one female decision maker.7 Women’s needs, perspectives and capabilities are therefore often excluded from policies and decision-making.
Women’s leadership can accelerate our climate mitigation and adaptation eﬀorts. Indeed, by involving women’s perspectives in climate conversations at every level, new and greener technologies, products, services and processes for tackling climate change will be brought to the fore. Excluding them would be like trying to combat the crisis with one hand tied behind our backs.
- The transition to a green economy can drive women’s empowerment: Current approaches to climate mitigation and adaptation could set back gender equality by up to 20 years,8 mainly because women are underrepresented in the green transition’s key professions and are therefore already behind when it comes to ﬁnding new jobs, reskilling and funding opportunities. For example, in the United States, women make up only 27% of the STEM workforce.9
Here is the good news: this is not inevitable. If gendered social and economic considerations are built into climate projects from the very beginning, this transformation can drive women’s empowerment. This can uplift women’s social and economic standing, improve climate resilience and safeguard progress in women’s empowerment. Why double the work by tackling the two issues in turn?
Our focus should not stop at the disproportionate impacts of climate change borne by women; the opportunity for multi-solving solutions to inequality and climate change is too good to miss.
‘How’ are companies taking action at the gender-climate nexus?
Many companies consider gender and climate change in silos, with disconnected objectives and fragmented structures which miss key opportunities for collaboration. However, a number of businesses have embraced the need for collaborative, intentionally intersectional approaches that draw together gender and climate ambitions. The success of these initiatives has yielded scalable best practices, insights and examples to learn from.
- Promoting women’s leadership and representation in key industries of the green transformation: In the ﬁnance sector, BNP Paribas improves the representation of women in its investee companies by voting against company boards with all-male directors. This strategy aligns with a 2021 study by Board Ready, highlighting the positive relationship between board diversity and a company’s climate governance.10
- Providing education to support the green transformation: Schneider Electric is leading the green transformation and recognises the value of diversity and women’s leadership. Accordingly, they run inclusive training programmes, ranging from leadership development to STEM education for young people, which include targets for women and girls’ participation.
- Increasing women’s access to funding and resources: Businesses including P&G and Mondelēz support women entrepreneurs to create sustainable, transformational businesses by providing better access to funding and improving female agricultural workers’ access to farm inputs, land ownership and entrepreneurial skills, respectively.
- Collecting gender-disaggregated data to guide climate adaptation and development programming: CARE France aims to alleviate the ‘double injustice’ of climate vulnerability and gender inequality by incorporating gender considerations in data collection of data on community-level vulnerabilities to and adaptive capacity. CARE’s Climate Vulnerability and Capacity Analysis (CVCA) informs gender-responsive actions at the community level and supports communities in increasing resilience to climate change.
- Deﬁning and measuring success with gender and climate metrics: KPMG helps companies to explore the evolving sustainability regulation and standards landscape, including how gender is accounted for in the EU’s green taxonomy11 (and how they may be when the Taxonomy is extended to include social objectives). As the pertinence of ESG reporting and sustainability-related regulation grows, metrics will emerge that help companies measure and report their impact at the gender-climate nexus.
Our future plans – join us!
Looking to the future, the Daring Circle is committed to supporting companies in embracing the ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ of the gender-climate nexus and enabling concrete action. As new examples and developments emerge, we will continue engaging our partners and the broader Women’s Forum community to adopt supportive practices. If the imperatives and opportunities of the gender-climate nexus resonate with you, we invite you to join us in mainstreaming this transformative approach in order to combat two central social and environmental issues of our time.
1 Gloor, J.L et. al. (2022) We Can’t Fight Climate Change Without Fighting for Gender Equity. Accessed here.
2 Aguilar, L. (2004) Climate change and disaster mitigation. Gender makes the diﬀerence. IUCN. Accessed here.
3 UN Women (2017). SDG13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. Accessed here.
4 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (2022). Why is gender equality and rural women’s empowerment central to the work of FAO? Accessed here.
5 Rock, D. & Grant, H. (2016). Why Diverse Teams Are Smarter. Harvard Business Review. Accessed here.
6 Di Miceli, A. & and Donaggio, A. (2018): Women in Business Leadership Boost ESG Performance. IFC. Accessed here.
7 SHE Changes Climate. (2022). Accessed here.
8 Sqalli, Z. et. al. (2021). Why Climate Action Needs a Gender Focus. BCG. Accessed here.
9 Martinez, A. & Christnacht, C. (2021). Women Making Gains in STEM Occupations but Still Underrepresented. United States Census Bureau. Accessed here.
10 Subramanian, R. (2021). Does board diversity drive corporate action on climate change? BoardReady. Accessed here.
11 European Commission. (2022). EU Taxonomy for Sustainable Activities. Accessed here.