Feminism and sustainability

Exploring the relationship between feminism and sustainability.

There are two angles to this. On one side feminist ideas can support the progress of the sustainability movement and the intersection of the two will improve both movements.

I recently finished a thesis exploring sustainability challenges under a feminist lens supporting – in short – the argument that women were underrepresented among start-up founders due to a systematic understanding of how a founder needs to look and behave that excludes them. The feminist theory supported the idea that systematic flaws cannot be addressed by requiring adaptation from the discriminated party to fit into a chronically unfair system.

The Sustainability Development Goals (SDG) built out by the UN in 2015 have easily broken down areas of progress for nations and corporations alike. However, this numbering and splitting of issues have not facilitated an intersectional approach to the goals. For instance, poverty (SDG 1) is linked to world hunger (SDG 2) and while most people would make this connection, the intersection of sustainability and women’s rights is often overlooked.

Photo by Ives Ives on Unsplash

Despite being at the forefront of the crisis, women make up 15% of environmental ministers and 1% of start-up CEOs (meaning they don’t decide or design innovations for our future world). This lack of involvement in decision-making is global and benefits … no one. Women more often than men desire to make a positive impact at work or benefit the whole community instead of themselves making their representation crucial. The example of Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus granting microloans to women is a great example of the return on investments that women empowered can provide.

The involvement of women brings new perspectives necessary for a sustainable world, one of an underrepresented group.

Women also benefit from stronger sustainability action. While we are all responsible for the climate crisis, large polluters are made of large companies (20 firms are responsible for 35% of emissions) and high net-worth individuals. The representation of women in energy is so low that it is amongst the lowest in any sector and half of the top 20 energy companies have no women in their executive team. In contrast, women make up 70% of the poorest people on this planet. From choosing sustainable home products to travelling further to get water and dropping out of school to support the family’s business in crisis or being sold for child marriage, women bear the burden of crises. They are highly represented in agriculture but do not own land making them even more vulnerable to climate change-induced poverty. Without the means to leave or invest in their future, women are also subject to violence when crises occur as the pandemic or disaster-relief experts have shown.

Further reading and resources can be found on this inspiring podcast


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