A national climate emergency has been declared by the UK Parliament and the 2020s have been described as the “decade of action to repair the Earth.” In the lead up to IWD 2020, Catalyse Change founders Jenna and Traci, take a look at where the UK is in terms of gender equality and why it is imperative in addressing climate change.

There is still work to do to achieve gender equality
Gender inequality is evident all around us in just the first six weeks of 2020 alone;

UK Government – After the most recent elections, women continue to make up only a third of the parliament and a quarter of the Conservative MPs.
World Stage – At Davos, where the rich and powerful hang out to shape the global agenda, women made up only a quarter of delegates.
Climate Action – Former UK energy minister Claire O’Neill was recently removed as the president for the upcoming COP26 and replaced by Alok Sharma, who voted against the Green Industrial Revolution “Programme for the Many” in 2019.
Media – The media continue to tear down women and display double standards in the treatment of women in comparison to male counterparts. Recent ‘shaming’ of high-profile women include that which led to the tragedy of Caroline Flack.
Violence – In 2019, the number of women killed by a current or former partner surged by nearly a third, and the overall numbers of female victims of homicide hit a 14-year-high.

The UK is falling behind  The recent Gender Inequality Index (2019) reported that the UK is progressing towards gender inequality at a slower pace than other EU member states.

Gender inequality is most pronounced in the domain of power. In the workplace it is a significant issue, with women making up only around 30 percent of leadership positions in the public and private sectors, and there is still a gender pay gap of 17 per cent. In addition, women are disproportionately underrepresented in specific sectors key to sustainability, including; science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

Where there are women there is climate action  Countries with more women in their parliaments are more likely to set aside protected land areas and ratify international environmental treaties. While businesses with more women on their Board are more likely to make improvements against environmental indicators including energy efficiency and investment in renewable power.

When gender equality is high, there is an increase in measures taken to address environmental degradation and improve social and human development. A good example is Jacinda Adern, Prime Minister of New Zealand since 2017. As just last year they passed a bill to enshrine in law zero net carbon emissions by 2050. They also introduced a Wellbeing Budget, becoming the first western country to design it’s entire budget on wellbeing priorities. While recently they announced that every school in New Zealand will have currriculum which will put it at forefront of climate change education worldwide.

The key is empowering young women
Christiana Figueres who was head of the UN climate change convention when the Paris agreement was achieved, states in her new book The Future We Choose that,
Educating young women and empowering women to come to decision-making tables is the strongest thing that we can do for the climate. When there are more women in boardrooms and in high-level positions in institutions, you get decisions that are wiser and longer term.

But young women are being failed
Confidence has been identified as a key barrier to women positioning themselves at an early age to pursue leadership roles. It is also a barrier to accessing certain education and career pathways, in particular those related to science, technology, engineering, and maths subjects. This has been described as a “Confidence Gap” between men and women, “Gender differences in confidence are quite dramatic… men overestimate their abilities and performance, while women underestimate both…”. At Catalyse Change, we have found that girls and young women from all backgrounds, share the same issue, that they do not believe they have the knowledge or skills to effect change.

Low confidence is part of a spectrum of mental and physical challenges facing girls and young women (GYW), who face cyber bullying and negative messaging around body image. One in three teenage girls reportedly now suffer from anxiety and other mental health issues. While almost two thirds of GYW report not feeling safe walking home from school due to unwanted sexual attention. (Girls Attitude Survey).

One of our Catalyse Change alumni has just being awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Bristol University – the youngest ever to be given this – for her services to nature, conservation and racial equality and inclusion. She came on our Catalyst Bootcamp and mentoring programme last year to build her skills as an activist and campaigner, but also to improve confidence in her ability,
I have had a lot of personal attacks on social media, that boys doing similar work have not, and I wanted to build up my mental health resilience.”

Addressing gender equality for sustainability on International Women’s Day
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is ‘I am Generation Equality: Realising Women’s Rights‘ focusing on how to achieve a more gender equal society. To celebrate we are putting on a fab party on 4th March in Bristol and we are being joined by some exceptional female change makers to debate this. We will also take the opportunity to celebrate women from all backgrounds and ages who are working for positive social and environmental change.

All proceeds will go to our Catalyse Change bursary fund to empower many more young women this year as confident, resilient change makers. We do hope you can join us.

Book your tickets and/or make a donation here, thank you!
Each for Equal, 11am – 2.30pm, 4th March, Triodos Foundation, Bristol #GenerationEquality #IWD2020 #EachforEqual

All enquiries contact:
Traci Lewis, co-founder & director, Catalyse Change CIC, traci@catalysechange.com @TraciLewis79

Jenna Holliday, co-founder & director, Catalyse Change CIC, jen@catalysechange.com

www.catalysechange.com @CatalyseCh