GenderCC-Women for Climate Justice is a global network of organisations, experts and activists working on the intersection of gender and climate justice. GenderCC has evolved in the context of the international climate negotiations (UNFCCC) and it aims to achieve its goals by raising awareness, building capacity to improve climate policies, empowering women*, enhancing cooperation on gender and climate issues at all levels and advocating for gender and climate justice. It was formally founded in 2007, and it consists of more than 160 members which makes it one of the largest networks in the field, globally. As an international network, GenderCC has a unique governance structure as it is made up of several bodies; an international steering committee, the GenderCC board and the international secretariat which is based in Berlin, Germany.
This paper is a short version of a publication which is planned to be published in autumn of 2023. The data which are presented here are based on a literature review that GenderCC conducted in 2022 as part of the H2020 project DIALOGUES. In addition, the publication which will become available later this year will include more secondary data, as well as primary data.
It is important to mention that existing research on gender and energy perpetuate a binary view of gender in terms of men/women and does not yet regard the views of non-binary, trans and gender non-conforming people. We, therefore, urge more scholars to reconsider their approach to gender in this field of research as an attempt to move beyond the binarity of data and the lack of inclusion of the perspectives of other identities and genders.
Gender refers to roles, behaviors, attributes, and opportunities that society considers appropriate for ‘women’ and ’men’, also due to power relations. Genders are socially constructed, learned through socialization processes, and vary across culture/societies and change over time. In the discussion of energy, gender is highly relevant, yet often neglected. Research has shown that women are involved in a higher percentage in energy activities concerning household chores, yet there is less gender participation in energy decisions. Women hold a pivotal role in sustainable energy transition in households, and they are more engaged than men in household-related energy use (Shrestha et al., 2021). However, what seems to be the barrier to women’s involvement in energy discussions and meaningful participation, for example in the World energy Council chairs (WEC) is gender differences and the perception of gender roles, the sensitivity of which has to be recognized (Shrestha et al., 2021; IRENA, 2019).
2. Gender roles, technology, and energy consumption
2.1 Background and empirical examples
Research in the field has shown that attitudes towards technology and renewable energies are influenced by gender roles as well as, gender differences at household level. Women are often seen as more environmentally responsible and interested in sustainability compared to their male counterparts which can be explained by their motivation to protect their children, and their community (Comeau et al., 2015; Allen et al., 2019). In addition, women share a stronger connection to nature and are more eager than men to engage with activities that aim to protect the Earth (Tjørring, 2016). However, even though there is research that confirms that, women’s engagement with energy renovation is limited because it is apparently associated with house maintenance which is something that appeals mostly to men (Tjørring, 2016).
What has been mentioned raises again the question: “Why is there a difference in attitudes and behaviours between men and women?”. To answer that, we need to consider gender roles and responsibilities within households. The division of labour within households follows categorizations into supposedly technological (typically male) and non-technological (typically female) tasks which follow certain gender scripts (Mort, 2019). In addition, women face structural barriers which interfere with their access to knowledge, improvement of skills, development of social networks and financial capital which can also explain why women have a less engaging attitude to renewable energy technologies (Buechler et al., 2020; Comeau et al., 2015; Standal et al., 2020). Nonetheless, it also seems that women often downplay their expertise, and their confidence has been affected and they appear more insecure which has been pointed out in research in Canada, Norway and the UK (Comeau et al., 2015; Standal et al., 2020).
A study in U.S households, has profoundly shown that home climate solutions exacerbate the gender ‘climate gap’ as they are traditionally performed by women. An example of supposedly easy and accessible climate action such as compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) are linked to gender inequality (Thoyre, 2020). That is because women are affected by additional gendered work that comes with home climate change solutions. The devaluing of the gendered labor that revolves the use of such solutions should be taken into consideration or else it can contribute to the reproduction of inequalities within the binary (Thoyre, 2020). This is not the only example that proves what was just mentioned. Another study in Sweden notes that energy efficiency adds extra workload which affects women in a disproportionately way (Carlsson-Kanyama and Lindén, 2007). The solution to that issue is a gender perspective in future intervention programmes (Carlsson-Kanyama and Lindén, 2007).
Lastly, at household level, many studies have supported that women in the Global North spend more time doing household chores than men (Dunphy et al., 2017; EIGE, 2016; Grünewald and Diakonova, 2020; Mort, 2019; Standal et al., 2020). Energy use, at household level is seen to be influenced much more by women than men as a result of the division of household labour, (EIGE, 2016; Gram-Hanssen and Georg, 2018; Lennon et al., 2020; Wilhite, 2017). A clear hypothesis would be that women use more energy as they are responsible for high energy chores (such as laundry, cooking), however, it seems that in single households, single men use more energy than single women which points out that women tend to be more sustainable consumers (Mort, 2019; EIGE, 2016) This goes to show that women use less electricity than men when performing the same exact tasks in the example of single households (Grünewald and Diakonova, 2020).
The term “intersectionality” was coined in 1989 by the American scholar Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw. If we were to define the term then, according to an intersectionality perspective human beings experience multidimensional and complex lives, therefore, they cannot be assigned to a single category. More specifically Hankivsky (2014) defines intersectionality as:
” (…) an understanding of human beings as shaped by the interaction of different social locations (e.g. ’race’/ethnicity, indigeneity, gender, class, sexuality, geography, age, disability/ability, migration status, religion). These interactions occur within a context of connected systems and structures of power (e.g., laws, policies, state governments and other political and economic unions, religious institutions, media).” (Hankivsky, 2014, p.2).
3.2 In practice
In our field, it is important to adopt an intersectional lens because of its significant advantages and profound difference in the liability of our data as researchers. Intersectionality allows us to conduct a more complex analysis of gender and to move beyond the treatment of gender as binary which seems to be a reoccurring issue when looking at the literature review, we conducted. Adopting an intersectional lens also means no longer viewing men and women* as a homogeneous and universal groups/category (Hankivsky, 2014). It enables critical thinking which goes beyond “one-size fit all approaches” and it also welcomes everyone in safe spaces which are considerate of not being exclusive nor restricted without the interference of biases (Hankivsky, 2014).
3.3 Ways to move forward
Intersectionality is a great approach both in theory and in practise. One may ask how it actually looks applied, and the answer to that will be provided with certain simple examples. This section will be extended after we collect more primary data in collaboration with our partners who conduct the Climate Action Labs (CALs) which involve the participation of people in the form of focus groups.
To begin with, one should have in mind the meaning behind the word intersectionality; Women* (and men) are not to be treated as a homogenous group, therefore, different categories of women* for example should be acknowledged (Georgiadi, 2023). Some examples would be cis women, trans women, queer women, women with disabilities, migrant women, refugee women, poor women, indigenous women, etc. These different identities are likely to intersect, however, it is also important to understand that people who may “belong” in the same category are unique individuals themselves and their needs might differ. To be more specific, the conductors of workshops, focus groups, trainings, etc should question their tools and resources in order to make sure they are inclusive. There are many types of disabilities which vary from blindness, deafness, mental health conditions, intellectual disability and physical disability (Georgiadi, 2023). Therefore, it is important to not assume that people who fall under the category “people with disabilities” also share the same needs. To start off, one simple practise is to create awareness by asking for the needs of the participants (Georgiadi, 2023). Yet, before even moving to that step the organisers ought to respectful of the way that the venue is accessible e.g., ramps, disability-friendly bins, gender neutral restrooms, accessible parking spaces, frequent breaks, etc. Lastly, it is of high importance to consider extra recourses to address the needs of the participants which can be for example, whisper translation, sign language interpreters, etc (Georgiadi, 2023).
Elena Georgiadi (GenderCC – Women for Climate Justice e.V. )
GenderCC - Women for Climate Justice e.V.