WHO SAID girls just wanna have fun?
Cindy Lauper’s catchy pop tune may have got it all wrong because according to market research company Mintel, 71% of women try to live more ethically (sustainably), while only 59% of men do. Women also take on more responsibility of trying to encourage friends and family to make sustainable lifestyle choices.
The language surrounding sustainability can also serve to deepen the gender gap, with terms such as “Mother Earth” and “man-made problems” common in everyday language. The concept of Mother Earth actually spans back to Ancient Rome!
This difference in the female and male approaches to sustainability is known as the “eco gender gap”, where women are more aware of environmental issues, concerned with their impacts, and proactive in living sustainably than their male counterparts*. If you look at global headlines today, some of the most high profile environmental advocates are female - including environmental activist Greta Thunburg, Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern and popular eco-influencers like Tara McKenna and Lauren Singer.
HOW THE ECO-GENDER GAP impacts your day-to-day
The eco-gender gap is pervasive and can show up in a multitude of ways across your everyday life, in your household for example you might be the one who’s vegan (less carbon footprint), or who’s already made sustainable product swaps like clothing or beauty products.
Sustainable products and activities are often targeted at female-identifying consumers (think beauty products, eco-getaways, that low-cal vegan buddha bowl), and the lack of male representation in sustainable narratives could perpetuate lack of male involvement in activities.
BRIDGING THE ECO-GENDER GAP getting the guys involved
Let’s face it, meaningful action for saving the planet needs to involve everyone, regardless of gender, race, religious background, you name it. We’re literally all in it together. While we don’t think women should bear the burden of educating men (they can research and take action all on their own too!), we do know that if you’re passionate about sustainability you’re probably interested in advocating for change to the people who matter most to you.
So how do you start bridging the gap?
Normalize conversations about sustainable practices with male counterparts. Talk about what holds them back, ask them to think about if they find some practices undermine their masculinity (i.e. carrying a reusable bag)? Explore their ideas on what middle ground can be met to make being sustainable feel more inclusive to them?
Encourage the men in your life to join you on your sustainability journey - ask them to find resources for you to both share, or eco-activities that he’d enjoy doing solo or with you.
Hold local and international brands accountable for developing gender-neutral advertising and develop more inclusive sustainable products.
MIND THE GAP it’s going to take some work
We know it can be overwhelming when you’re making changes to help the environment, and feeling like you’re the only responsible one in the room can be a real drag. We feel ya girl.
By opening up the conversation with your male family and friends, and encouraging them to be accountable and proactive, we can start to overcome the eco-gender gap and work together to make sustainable choices for the planet.
* That isn’t to say all males are less interested in sustainability, but that historically through to today, the bulk of the responsibility has fallen on women.