In terms of climate change impacts women have the most to lose and in terms of engaging climate action they have the most to gain. Women are the sex most likely to suffer from the effects of climate change and they have been shown to be better environmental stewards than their male counterparts.
Women are on the front lines of climate change and they are have made major contributions to both environmentalism and sustainability. However, there is a vast potential that has yet to be fully unleashed.
B U S I N E S S & E C O N O M Y
A recent report explores how women are an increasingly important part of the economy. According to the 2018 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, commissioned by American Express, over the past year, women started an average of 1,821 new businesses every day in the US. Women-owned businesses now employ more than 9 million people and generate $1.8 trillion in annual revenue.
As reported by Businesswire, a US Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners indicates that the number of firms owned by minority women has grown by 163 percent since 2007. Women-owned companies employ roughly 8 percent of the American workforce and generate 4.3 percent of annual business revenue in the US. Despite making up around a quarter of the female population—women of color now represent nearly half of America’s female entrepreneurs. Four and half million black and Latina women now run their own companies.
Women are critical to climate action, they are also more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. According to The Global Commission report, women and children are more than 14 times more likely perish in climate related disasters. Women are also more dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods compared to men and they suffer disproportionately from poverty. They are further burdened by various forms of abuse and gender discrimination.
The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate report indicates that while women are gaining ground they still have along way to go. The report is from the Global Commission which is made up of 28 former heads of state and was commissioned by several governments to help advise countries on climate change action and economic development. Three commissioners, including former Mexican President Felipe Calderon, delivered the report to U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres.
According to this study women are better equipped and more likely to alter our current perilous trajectory. In the process they could help unlock a $28 trillion opportunity. Although it may make some men uncomfortable the fact is that women are often better at business than their male counterparts and more likely to provide employment.
“Research shows that women as entrepreneurs often outperform male counterparts in terms of business capacity and job creation,” the Global Commission report says.
E N V I R O N M E N T A L & P O L I T I C A L
Women will effectuate change on many levels. This includes their impacts on the clean energy economy and their involvement at all levels of politics and government.
“Women will play a critical role in delivering this agenda in an inclusive and people-centred way. In countries where more women participate in political life, parliaments are more likely to set aside protected lands and ratify international environmental treaties, while ensuring their full participation in the economy could, by some estimates, boost global GDP by as much as US$28 trillion per year by 2025.”
Research shows that in wealthy countries women tend to be more aware about climate change and more accepting of the need for “major lifestyle changes”. Women are playing a key roles in both government and the economy. In the developing world providing clean energy to poor and rural communities offers significant social benefits and environmental benefits. They have proven themselves to be especially adept at being purveyors of solar in Africa and Asia. “Growing evidence points to the success and opportunity for women to excel as entrepreneurs in clean energy access businesses,” the Global Commission report said. Women in developing countries have demonstrated that they are capable providers and distributors of solar energy.
Women who are involved in clean energy are doing far more than combating climate change. They are leveraging their social networks to spread awareness about sustainable energy while strengthening their standing in their homes and communities.
Women working in the clean energy sector off the additional benefit of challenging traditional gender role.
A G R I C U L T U R E
Almost half of the economically active women in the world work in agriculture. This is important because agriculture is a sector already feeling significant climate impacts and as these impacts increase our ability to feed the world will diminish. As explained by the Global Commission report:
“Empowering rural women…is also critical to feeding the world. Agricultural productivity improves when women have access to land, household welfare, and adequate finance. If women farmers had access to the same financial and technical resources as men, the resulting rise in output could rescue an estimated 150 million people from hunger”
Women can also play a salient role in improving water management outcomes.
W H A T S N E X T
The Global Commission report suggests that women have the capacity to meaningfully contribute to a more sustainable world. The report also indicates that heeding its recommendations could create 65 million new low carbon jobs in 2030 and raise the global GDP by $28 trillion each year by 2025. As explained in the report,
“Women continue to be under-represented and under-paid compared to male counterparts in the workforce in most sectors of the economy. Some studies suggest that growing automation may serve to exacerbate these inequalities, unless policies are implemented to actively manage the impacts”.
Although we have seen progress, the US Census Bureau report found women who run high earning firms (more than $1 million per year) make up only 1.7 percent of companies.
The Global Commission report suggests DFIs, governments and the private sector, “should partner to build and promote women’s skills and leadership to support the full clean energy access supply chain.” They also suggest, “A special focus on training for women and women’s leadership as an integral part of business models can accelerate social impact”
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