Published at 2019, November 21th
Isn’t saving the world manly enough? More and more studies show sustainable development is a “girl’s thing”: it mobilizes mainly women, the gender that’s most interested in the topic.
We know that in terms of employment, interests or passions, gender differences are subject to common associations, specificities, and even judgments. In fact, the way girls and boys are educated and the stereotypes they find in society, often orient them towards certain professional sectors or certain domains of interest.
But sustainable development has to be of the interest of everyone. The future of human societies is at stake, all parts of the economy are being (and will further be) affected, and all this is having (and will have) an impact on everyone, boys or girls, men or women – especially in developing countries. Yet, in practice, there is a big difference between how women and men perceive sustainable development, ecology, and environmental issues.
Women Are More Concerned About The Environment And Global Warming
According to a Pew Research poll, women are, on average, more concerned about environmental issues than men. In some countries, such as the United States, women are 17% more likely than men to see global warming as “a serious problem”. Admittedly, the difference is smaller in European countries, generally more aware of the issue, but it still persists! For instance, in Germany, while 90% of women consider global warming as a serious problem, only 84% of men agree with this proposal.
On a range of issues linked with environmental problems, women are almost always more interested and more concerned. They sort waste more often, they save more energy or water: in short, they are more eco-friendly then men. Ok, you might say this can be related to the fact that women are still the ones who, generally speaking (because it’s changing), manage most household issues today. But take a look at the next stats.
There Are More Women Studying And Working In Sustainable Development
The likely consequence of the tendency that more women care about the subject than men is that there are more women working in sustainable development roles. Moreover, according to a Birdeo study on the CSR and sustainable development professions conducted in 2018, we find more women working in jobs linked to the ecological and social transition. Almost 60% of women work in these fields, while they represent a minority of management occupations at the same level in other sectors.
And it’s quite logical: when we look at the career concerns of students, we see, again, that those who give the most importance to sustainable development and CSR in their professional choices are the women. According to a study by the University of Berkeley, most female students place these issues in the top 3 of their professional concerns, while male students, instead, are more likely to place the salary and opportunities for advancement at their top 3.
Furthermore, according to the same study, companies with more women in their management structure are most likely to develop sustainable development policies. Basically, when it comes to protecting the planet, biodiversity or working for social justice, it seems women are generally more interested and better doers than men.
Sustainable Development: Not Manly Enough?
Explaining why these differences exist ain’t easy. Some scientists have argued that because empathy and generosity are typically more feminine traits, women are more likely to be concerned about issues of general interest, as is the case with ecology or sustainable development. And this stronger empathy would then be explained by differences in brain structures (as a study by an American neurobiologist and psychiatrist explains) and education.
However, more recently, some researchers have added another, more cultural, explanation: sustainable development may not be manly enough. In fact, a large-scale survey of more than 2,000 people on sustainability and responsible consumption topics showed that, on average, men tend to refuse to adopt environmentally responsible gestures, particularly because they stereotype them as too feminine.
Basically, saving the world from an ecological disaster does not seem like a masculine mission. It’s hard to explain how such stereotypes can emerge in our societies, but education and cultural stigma are probably involved in the equation. The problem is that this masculine-caused delay is (one more obstacle) slowing down the transition to responsible consumption behaviors – which are essential to orient society towards a more ecological functioning.
It is, therefore, time to teach, share and break the bias: sustainable development and ecology are not a feminine thing or something to be embarrassed about. It’s precisely the opposite: joining the taskforce of people adopting responsible, ecological behaviors, in all sectors and industries and in their personal lives is something to be proud of. For both men and women.