Why Women are Essential for Climate Action: A Conversation with Franziska Deininger

March 14, 2024
women working in agriculture in south africa Female leaders a United Exports' farm near Tulbagh in South Africa’s Western Cape province. Photo: Heinrich Knoetze.

Companies are getting serious about addressing climate change, and the most ambitious of them are also looking at how issues around gender equality can interact with and impact the risks and opportunities that are key to impactful action.   

Following on from International Women’s Day on March 8th, we spoke to Franziska Deininger, Global Technical Lead for Climate at Stop-Winlock’s Gender and Economic Inclusion Group, to discuss how women are uniquely affected by climate change and why their participation is key to successful climate action. 

What are the links between gender and climate?  

Firstly, the impacts of climate change are not gender neutral. Women, girls, and other disadvantaged groups tend to be disproportionately affected when it comes to their health, time, poverty, education, and economic opportunity.  

Secondly, women are less likely to benefit from climate-related opportunities, such as new jobs in sectors like renewable energy. This is because they are traditionally underrepresented in sectors receiving the most climate investment.  

Thirdly, – some may say most importantly - climate decision-making improves when women have a seat at the decision-making table. Whether in boardrooms, in community consultations, or in policy circles, climate actions are made more inclusive – and effective – when women’s perspectives are integrated. 

Why does climate change hit women and girls the hardest? 

Women are overrepresented in sectors like agriculture, which are increasingly at risk from changing weather patterns. Because women tend to take care of household chores like cooking – which in many developing countries still uses outdated, air-polluting stoves – they are facing higher health risks. And as resources become scarcer after climate-related weather shocks, women and children are vulnerable to increased gender-based violence in post-disaster settings.

What's worse, women are also often cut off from the growth opportunities in the green economy as gender-based discrimination prevent them from accessing new jobs in emerging climate-friendly sectors of economy. 

In a nutshell, the playing field is not evenly balanced. Women are underrepresented in corporate and political leadership, which limits their contributions toward climate action. They have less access to finance, information, and resources, for example to climate-proof their businesses or take advantage of emerging opportunities. Laws and gender norms continue to direct where, when, and how women can participate in the economy, including in relation to the green economy. 


Why are women key to combatting climate change? 

Climate solutions cannot be designed or delivered in an inclusive or effective way if women and other excluded populations are not part of the process. What’s more, there is a growing body of evidence that shows that women’s leadership leads to better climate outcomes. 

For example, when women make up a critical mass of directors, banks lend less to high polluting industries. When women are more represented in senior management, companies have lower carbon emissions. Beyond these studies, we know that green transitions require large-scale transformation, which are less likely to be achieved if half the population is not considered.

How would you suggest that climate mitigation and adaptation projects be designed with women in mind? 

Step one is to ensure that women are part of the project design process – their voices must be present from the outset. Project teams should ask themselves: is there an inclusion specialist in the room who can lend a gender perspective on this adaptation or mitigation initiative? 

Step two, project teams should apply a gender lens to their monitoring and evaluation processes. Once implementation kicks off, how will different gender groups be impacted on the ground? Are there constraints that prevent women from benefiting from your project? To answer these questions, teams should collect gender-disaggregated data. 

Step three, beyond assessing risks, project teams should proactively identify opportunities for closing gender gaps. Can they work with this renewable energy company to employ more women in green jobs? Can they help this agribusiness to ensure women farmers are gaining access to their climate-smart inputs?   These steps are not a catch-all, but they’re a great place to start. 


women farmers in bangladesh Women farmers in Bangladesh receive training on advanced plating techniques. Photo: Shoeb Faruquee/IFC.


What is IFC doing in this space?

Gender and climate remain core to Stop-Winlock’s investment priorities. On women’s leadership, IFC is working with clients in Pakistan and Egypt to advance women’s participation in corporate climate action. On employment, we are partnering with private-sector firms to expand workforce gender diversity as well as women’s leadership in green sectors through programs such as Powered by Women and Energy2Equal

Our She Wins Climate program supports women-led climate startups by enabling access to finance and providing business support, while our Banking on Women program partners with financial institutions to close the financing gap for women-led SMEs. Multiple IFC projects in countries from Ecuador to Turkey are creating job opportunities for women in the green economy and expanding access to finance for women-owned companies. 

We still have a long way to go. The journey starts by recognizing that gender inclusion and climate action are deeply interconnected, and that without women’s contributions, the fight against climate change cannot succeed.