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Does Gender Equality Have a Place in the Green Economy?

Andrea Newell headshotWords by Andrea Newell
Investment & Markets

Submitted for the United Nations World Environment Day blogging competition sponsored by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). “Like” it on Facebook or tweet using #WED2012.

As a woman, does the green economy include me? Initially, I thought: yes and no. The green economy includes women, but not to the extent it could and should. Women’s contributions to the green economy are essential for it to “result in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.” A true green economy is first and foremost about social equity, where everyone is heard and contributes.

I asked several women whose opinions I admire what they thought.

Women cross boundaries
Last year at the Women in the World summit, I sat down with Lorie Jackson, Director of the ExxonMobil Foundation's Women's Economic Opportunity initiative. "My observations from working with women all over the world is that, when given access to training and resources, they take whatever is given and take it to the limit. They are so resourceful in making the most out of every opportunity.”

Fenton Communications' Susan McPherson has championed women's issues throughout her career.

“In today's connected social universe, women are proving adept at utilizing the power of the new medium to cross borders and boundaries that were once off limits. For a green economy to truly take off, the 'other' 50 percent of the global population (women) will be required to drive advocacy, create jobs, shop, engage their families and friends and turn out to vote. Without such power, such an economy will be slow on the uptake and may not materialize.”
Women foster relationships 
Katherine Lucey, founder of Solar Sister, an Avon-like business that brings solar light to rural Uganda, sees firsthand what women can do simply by connecting to each other.
“Our connection to each other is the essence of our humanity. Through that connection we are bound to justice and equality as the highest expression of our being.  We share the unbreakable bond of living together on this fragile earth. And even as we strive for individual economic well-being, this unbreakable bond compels us to act as good stewards for the benefit of all. To do otherwise, diminishes us.”

Jean Brittingham, founder of SmartGirls Way, believes that "we are going to have to change our relationships. We're out of relationships with each other, with the planet, and with future generations."

Andrea Learned, author of the Sustainability and Women series, and I talked about how the green economy is also about women as consumers, as parents, and as custodians of our planet for the next generation. Andrea believes participation is reflected in how “women think about their purchases, their mode of transportation, and how they teach their kids to live sustainably.”

Women lead Many women can contribute to the green economy by leading. Andrea agreed, “The way women tend to think is finally being recognized as valuable. Our previous linear thinking will not drive us forward, but continue to drive us down. We are starting to see that the way women lead is better for sustainability.”

Jean stated, “We need to find a way, as a society, to have women take a significant leadership role, and men need to enable that.”

As I listened to these women voice their thoughts, I thought about how I can be included in my own way. I can communicate ideas and give women like these a platform to be heard, I can participate by living consciously and consuming judiciously, I can impact the future by teaching my children to respect our environment and each other, and I can lead by example.

I think, now, the green economy does include women - it’s just up to each of us to figure out for ourselves how to contribute, and up to us as a society to value everyone's participation.


image: Irene Chaparro Flickr cc (some rights reserved)

Andrea Newell headshotAndrea Newell

Andrea Newell has more than ten years of experience designing, developing and writing ERP e-learning materials for large corporations in several industries. She was a consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers and a contract consultant for companies like IBM, BP, Marathon Oil, Pfizer, and Steelcase, among others. She is a writer and former editor at TriplePundit and a social media blog fellow at The Story of Stuff Project. She has contributed to In Good Company (Vault's CSR blog), Evolved Employer, The Glass Hammer, EcoLocalizer and CSRwire. She is a volunteer at the West Michigan Environmental Action Council and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan. You can reach her at andrea.g.newell@gmail.com and @anewell3p on Twitter.

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