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Female leaders

SHE Changes Climate’s Bianca Pitt explains why the climate crisis can’t be solved without women in leadership
Verónica Inmunda, Youth, Culture and Sports Coordinator at CONFENIAE

Main image: Verónica Inmunda, Youth, Culture and Sports Coordinator at CONFENIAE

This article first appeared in our COP27 special issue of My Green Pod Magazine, published on 11 November 2022. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox

While many of us perhaps harbour a desire to lead, the thought of it can be terrifying: 75% of people fear public speaking more than death.

It is not in our psyche to stand up, step outside our group and stand out. We fear being judged. So it came a surprise to me that I ended up co-founding SHE Changes Climate with two other women from the environmental sector.

I had previously set up Women of the Environment Group, a fairly informal network uniting women who work in the environmental sector.

There were about 90 of us globally: funders, CEOs of charities and foundations and influencers. We shared news, projects, visions, hopes and despairs; I saw myself as a connector and enabler of others, but not as the person on the front line.

Acting as an advisor to environmental charities suited me, as I was also raising a young family and running a regenerative farm.

When the news hit that the UK had only appointed men to its COP26 team, an outcry went through the group. How, in this day and age, could women be forgotten when it came to the people who would define the agenda, framing and narrative of the Conference of the Parties, the international climate negotiations that were set out under the guidance of the UNFCCC?

The UK was a signatory to the Gender Action Plan, which stipulates that women must be equally represented all the way to the top of these conferences.

Surely this was an oversight that could be fixed with a few quiet conversations.

We set up SHE Changes Climate to demand 50:50 Vision at the top of COP. Suddenly I was in charge of building and running a campaign, leading action for gender equality and taking direct climate action.

Climate & social justice

We spoke to COP26 president Alok Sharma and Peter Hill, COP26 CEO, as well as their chief of staff, and submitted a list of female climate experts from the UK and Commonwealth. To our surprise, no further women were appointed.

By the time COP26 came round, only two out of 12 directors were women. Due to the lack of representation of women at the top of COP, their perspectives and views would not be heard.

Instead, men would be making these decisions for all of humanity, ignoring the glaring fact that experiences of climate change are not gender neutral.

WOMEN DECLARES EMERGENCY

On 04 November, SHE Changes Climate held an online summit to put equality and inclusion at the centre of a vision for ambitious climate action, and released a ‘Women Declares Emergency’ statement that builds on the 500+ signatories who have already signed its Open Letter to COP27’s Presidency and Parties.

To join leaders including Christiana Figueres, Mary Robinson, George Monbiot, Katherine Wilkinson, Dame Emma Thompson, Paul Polman and many others supporting this call to action, visit shechangesclimate.org

Climate & inequality

It surprised me how few, even in the environmental sector, understood the importance of SDG 5: achieving gender equality for climate action.

With that I understood that the climate crisis was the result of our social inequalities.

Now we must remember that this was COP26; a quarter of a century had already been spent on trying to combat climate change and despite these efforts, emissions were still rising. Clearly something was not working.

Why we need women

Women are shown to raise climate ambition. Countries with more female parliamentarians have better climate policy and policy implementation.

Companies with more women on their board have better climate policy and policy implementation.

Women are more likely to create protected habitats. They are more likely to ratify environmental treaties.

It is estimated that we could add $12 trillion to the world economy if we evened up the gender gap.

Women are the key to climate action; without them in leadership, we cannot solve the climate crisis – yet like me, many women won’t see themselves as natural leaders.

For too long a patriarchal system has told them to shut up and be quiet. To fall into line.

Women are more likely to be negatively affected by economic downturns and by natural disasters. 75% of people living in poverty are women.

So how can we get them to lean in, speak their thoughts and push for change?

Seeing that our existing leadership is failing to tackle the emergency that has developed since COP started, we need to bring in new, diverse voices.

SHE Changes Climate is part of a wider diversity movement that seeks to bring women into leadership – of COPs and elsewhere. We seek 50:50 Vision at the top of COP.

Would you sail the world with one eye firmly patched up? Would you sail it with one arm tied behind your back

Now is the time to release the other 50% of leaders, innovators, entrepreneurs who will lead us into a sustainable future.

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