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With the fight for equality well on the way, there is another gender gap taking place in the world – the “Eco Gender Gap.” Both men and women should assume equal responsibility in protecting the environment because whichever our gender, we all want a safe, healthy planet to live on.
Therefore, our equal duty is to live a sustainable lifestyle and behave eco-friendly at home and in the workplace. But, unfortunately, research has shown that mainly women are carrying out the majority of the actions needed to sustain the planet. As a result, there is a gender disparity when making green choices, leading to the eco gender gap.
What Women Are Actively Doing for the Planet
Some pioneering women are taking considerable initiatives to actively work on solving environmental issues – including climate change, reducing pollution, and tackling food waste. From littering to recycling, it’s reported that a proportionately more significant number of women compared to men are acting greener.
A British study conducted in 2018 found that women are more eco-friendly than men, with 71% of women improving their commitment to ethical living compared to only 59% of men. In addition, 65% of British women are more likely to promote an ethical lifestyle to their friends and family compared to 56% of men. Across the pond in the United States, another study was completed where researchers learned only a low proportion of men followed low carbon diets – with only 24% of men being vegans.
Apart from women doing their bit during everyday life, they are also heading environmental movements in political spheres across the nations. For example, youth activist Greta Thunberg is encouraging world leaders to fight against climate change. In addition, American congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has submitted a proposal for a Green New Deal to help make a positive environmental change. Green social media influencers are also doing their part on the zero-waste movements, including outspoken women like Kathryn Kellogg and Bea Johnson.
Women also make up the majority of sustainable consumers. There are many zero waste companies that claim the majority of their customers are women. For example, French company House of Zero Waste recorded women make up 88% of their customers, and Canadian brand Without Co reported 90% of their shoppers are female.
Reasons Why Women Act More Sustainably
Following the eco gender gap reports, studies began to look into why women are more inclined to contribute towards saving the planet than men. It did not take long for experts to pinpoint the varying factors responsible for the disparity. Here are some of the primary identifying characteristics for the eco gender gap:
Some studies have found that the majority of adult Americans consider the green lifestyle to be feminine. The same report states that the feminization of the green movement is holding men back when showing green behaviors. For example, men feel it’s feminine to use reusable shopping bags, carry reusable water bottles, and even drive electric cars.
Additionally, scholars have found evidence of a cognitive association between the concepts of greenness and femininity. The study also indicated that this association could affect both social judgments and self-perception among both men and women. Nevertheless, more masculine-leaning gender identities are influenced by the green-feminine stereotype – thus impacting their willingness to engage in eco-friendly behaviors.
Another recent study revealed that some men actively avoid eco-friendly behavior in fear of people questioning their sexual orientation. The study participants also made a parallel of green behavior with gender stereotypes – emphasizing the notation of femininity and masculinity affecting environmentalism.
Many sources show that the eco-gender gap also exists due to the ongoing prevalence of gender norms in domestic and household roles. As reported by the OECD, American women spend an average of four hours every day doing unpaid domestic work. American men, on the other hand, spend only 2.5 hours. Another study completed in the UK found women complete around 16 hours of household chores compared to 6 hours by men every week. It’s also the women who assumed the majority of domestic duties in 93% of couples surveyed.
These studies visibly show a massive division in gender norms when allocating domestic duties to manage the household. This means that most sustainable choices associated with shopping, recycling, and transportation for school runs fall to women. Consequently, the question arises whether men make fewer green choices than women since these gender norms don’t give them equal opportunities to make them.
According to past studies, there may also be an eco gender gap due to the personality differences in women and men. In general terms, women outwardly show more concern for the planet as they tend to be more pro-social, altruistic, and empathetic.
Furthermore, women tend to display a stronger sense of ethics concerning environmentalism. However, studies have also confirmed in contrast that men are relatively more self-concerned and individualistic.
Bridging the Eco Gender Gap
As many factors contribute to the eco gender gap, many solutions can be employed to try and bridge it. Here are just a few of the examples of ways to get more men involved in environmentalism and adopting a green lifestyle:
Apply Masculine Branding
For those who believe living a green lifestyle is feminine, researchers have found that the solution may be to include more masculinity when promoting environmentalism. This approach could lead to affirming eco-friendly behavior and consumption as a part of what makes up the male gender identity – rather than stereotyping it as exclusively feminine.
One study followed a team of marketers that previously utilized masculine branding on stereotypically feminine products. For instance, yoga studios became popular with men when they were known as Broga, explicitly designed for males. Additionally, this branding strategy has been applied to domesticity and household products that are traditionally considered feminine. Researchers found that when these household products are associated with family-handyman or craftsmen, they have a tendency to attract consumers with masculine identities.
These case studies suggest that the gender reflected in a consumer product or behavior can establish which gender identifies with it. Consequently, it shows a positive sign that masculine branding could effectively alter the linked association of green consumption being feminine.
There are some in this research field who disagree with this masculine branding approach. For example, Michael Kimmel (professor of sociology and gender studies at Stony Brook University) states that affirming masculinity through branding is not a good solution. Kimmel suggests that alternatively, men would respond more to environmentalism if they were approached as fathers and protectors. By putting the responsibility on males to protect the world as it is their job as a father.
Encourage Creativity and Innovation
There is an increasing need for more creative solutions to tackle rising environmental issues. Reducing, reusing, and recycling are not solely feminine duties – they are the responsibility of everyone to ensure we are all protected. After all, climate change does not put gender stereotypes into consideration when harming the planet and neither should humans when taking responsibility to create solutions.
Both women and men need to be encouraged to participate in the development of new technologies to help reduce pollution and waste. There are several entrepreneurs out there who are employing innovative methods to help protect the environment and make our lives more sustainable.
This market is vast as there are still many environmental issues that need to be worked on, so everyone should get involved in finding new creative and innovative solutions to fight the global warming crisis.
There needs to be sufficient information on environmental issues and equal opportunities to resolve them actively. Education should be shared through technologies to allow people to have free access to information on eco products and green behavior.
More individuals need to be aware that saving and protecting the environment is everyone’s responsibility – irrespective of their gender identity. One solution to this would be to make environmental studies on the impact of climate change, deforestation, and recycling more accessible to people so they can be educated on the importance of saving the planet.
Encouraging eco-volunteering is also an effective method to allow people to contribute to protecting the environment directly. There are many associations providing opportunities for whole communities to conserve forests, jungles, sustainable agriculture, waterways, and coastal areas.
No matter your gender, everyone can contribute towards saving the environment in their own households and communities daily. This can include reducing the amount of waste in a home, participating in community litter picks, introducing paperless systems in workplaces, and choosing to power from renewable energy companies.
Personality differences, gender norms, and gender stereotyping should not distract people from doing what they can to save the planet, our only planet. There is a lot of damage caused by humans – we all have a responsibility in joining the environmental movement. There is a lot to do in such little time, and women should not be expected to tackle this crisis alone.