Women’s Leadership Can Help Drive Climate Solutions

Gender Equity Helps Reduce CO2 Emissions

Woman with back to camera stands facing seated group of people listening to her
Several studies connect gender equity and women's leadership in society to reduced carbon dioxide emissions. (Getty)

Women’s leadership and gender equity can help reduce carbon dioxide emissions, according to several studies summarized by The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) and the UC Davis ModLab.

Their presentation, offered by WECAN Executive Director Osprey Orielle Lake during this summer’s Scenarios Forum 2022, outlined how gender equity regarding women's leadership, agency, and political and social participation can drive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Driving change

A number of studies show that when women are in leadership positions in companies, governance, and society at large, CO2 emissions decrease and climate action increases.

The studies include:

  •  Research published in the journal Sustainable Development that shows that a 1-point increase in a country’s score on the Women’s Political Empowerment Index results in an average 11.51% drop in that country’s emissions.
  • A study in the European Journal of Political Economy that found female representation in national parliaments across 91 countries correlates with more stringent climate change policies and lower carbon emissions. 
  • A study in the Journal of Corporate Finance finding that firms with more women on the board or in leadership positions are less often sued for environmental infringements. 
  • Yale survey data showing that women in the United States are more likely to express concern regarding climate change than men and are more likely to support policy measures to curb CO2 emissions.
Osprey Orielle Lake of the Women's Earth and Action Climate Network (WECAN) presents for Scenarios Forum 2022 Session.

“In the past, gender has only been included regarding climate impacts,” Lake said. “Clearly, from these studies, gender needs to be included in future scenarios as a driver. Treating gender as a driver would provide policymakers with further understanding of why efforts to improve gender diversity are essential for keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.”

The World Economic Forum’s “Global Gender Gap Report 2022,” released after this presentation, reported that it will take another 132 years to close the global gender gap. It added that while “no country has yet achieved full gender parity, the top 10 economies have closed at least 80% of their gender gaps, with Iceland (90.8%) leading the global ranking.”

Equity not an afterthought

The presentation also highlighted ‘Women Speak: Stories, Case Studies And Solutions From The Frontlines Of Climate Change’, a media archive highlighting stories of women at the forefront of solutions and advocacy to respond to the climate crisis.

“The database is designed to shift the narrative as we collect and share thousands of stories and media narratives by and about women leading struggles and solutions for climate justice under 14 cross-sectional themes,” said Lake.

These themes include women’s leadership in forest and biodiversity protection, Indigenous rights, renewable energy advances, fossil fuel resistance, climate policy, new economies, and water protection.

“Gender equity and women’s leadership can no longer be an afterthought when drafting climate policy,” Lake said after the presentation. “For decades, climate justice movements have been showing how women’s leadership is necessary for climate solutions. Improving predictive models by including gender equity as a driver of change is necessary if we want to create and implement effective solutions to the climate crisis.”

Co-authors included Katherine Quaid, WECAN Communications Coordinator; Samara Hayley Steele, Ph.D. Candidate in Science and Technology Studies at UC Davis; and Alisha Chan, undergraduate researcher at UC Davis.

The Scenarios Forum brought together climate scientists, social scientists, and energy systems modelers engaged in developing a set of predictive climate models and data that inform reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 

Media Resources

Hayley Morris is an intern with the UC Davis News and Media Relations team in the office of Strategic Communications.

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