The Climate Action Gender Gap

More than a fifth of major corporations have pledged to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Yet few actively include or consider women in their climate action decisions and plans.

This is a mistake. Research shows that women are the most likely change‑makers for climate in economic areas from corporate leadership to product development. But these potential contributions are generally overlooked, we discovered in interviews with more than 20 companies across a range of industries.

Most corporate leaders have climate and diversity top of mind. Many companies set gender targets for their leadership, and some for their wider workforce and customer bases. Separately, businesses set targets for achieving net‑zero emissions.

These challenges should be linked together, especially given the similarities in their requirements for tangible impact: committed leadership, a rigorous focus on data, and continuous learning across the organization. Our conversations and research uncovered opportunities for corporations to speed up the world’s race to net zero by mainstreaming gender considerations in climate‑focused business initiatives — in particular, by actively considering women in three roles.

Climate action leaders: More women should be in leadership positions. They are often more open than men to changes that will drive climate action but are underrepresented in decision‑making positions, especially in carbon‑intensive industries.

Climate-lens investors: Climate solutions require large‑scale investment. Women are growing in importance as investors who have a stronger preference than men for investing that prioritizes environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) factors.

Low-carbon product influencers: To persuade consumers to buy more low‑carbon products, corporations should consider women’s preferences more closely. Women make a large proportion of household purchase decisions in areas that generate high emissions, such as food, travel, and energy. They are also more likely on average than men to change their habits in ways that contribute to emissions reduction.

Women are underrepresented in the climate activities of corporations and most governments. However, the idea of combining action on gender and climate is more prevalent in some governments and third‑sector organizations. The 25th Conference of the Parties in 2019 (COP25) established a Gender Action Plan (GAP). COP26 in Glasgow had a Gender Day. Mostly the movement to connect climate action and gender representation is driven by the desire for a just transition, given the greater impact that climate change has on women, who make up the largest portion of the world’s poor. 

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