The climate crisis is one of the greatest challenges of our time and is impacting us all. However, for a multitude of deep-rooted socioeconomic and cultural reasons, women, particularly those in the Global South, are increasingly being seen as more vulnerable than others to the impacts of climate change [UN, 2022]. Yet approaches that view women as solely victims of this crisis are reductive and miss the crucial reality that in many cases, women are active agents and promoters of climate adaptation and mitigation. Indeed, they are leaders who are all too often underutilised and underappreciated for their vital role in effectively addressing climate change.
Research has shown that female representation within national parliaments leads countries to adopt more stringent climate change policies. The strength of female politicians as a driving force for sustainability is an asset not missed by the first female President of Ireland, Mary Robinson. Allying herself with eminent female leaders across the globe, Mary founded ‘The Elders’, a group pushing for urgent climate action with a feminist approach. Fittingly, the group have selected the dandelion as their symbol: the only flower weed that grows on all seven continents. Resilient and flourishing in a wide range of inhospitable conditions, the dandelion encapsulates the united, yet uniquely challenging, struggles women face across the world in implementing climate action. As we have seen, when these challenges are surmounted, women leaders are an unstoppable force for enacting sustainable change.
As COP 27’s second week focusses its lens on female empowerment with ‘Women and Water Day’, we’re proud that at Bouygues Energies and Services (Bouygues E&S), an Equans company, we are an enthusiastic supporter both of ambitious, rapid, climate action and of the role women leaders can play in delivering it. This year, our employee-led sustainability-focussed Green Network has been shortlisted in our internal Sustainability Awards for their impact across the business in raising awareness of the climate crisis, enacting policy changes, and advancing our sustainability agenda. Founded by Bouygues E&S, an Equans company, Senior Learning and Development Advisor, Julie Hermann, and sponsored by our Bouygues Construction UK Country Manager, Fabienne Viala, the Green Network’s success is testament to the power of women taking the lead for the climate.
“Women and girls are disproportionately impacted by climate change yet continue to be under-represented in the most senior leadership roles. They are key actors of climate action, already leading grassroots movements or mobilising colleagues, and research has highlighted the link between high female representation in government and strong climate policies. To resolve the unprecedented climate crisis, we need women at the table now. One of the things I'm particularly proud of about the Green Network is how we consistently draw attention to the need for gender balance to be centred inolutions through our events, training, and approach.” Julie Hermann, Founder of the Green Network.
With every stage of the built environment lifecycle still presenting deep gender disparities and the need for more sustainable practices, there is no doubt that more female leaders are required within our industry. In addition to our steadfast commitment to equal opportunities and the work of our women’s network, WeLink, we are dedicated to inspiring the next generation of female talent. Our social value initiative, Girls Believe Academy, encourages young female students to explore the built environment sector and the exciting career opportunities it can offer. Through engaging younger students, we seek to address the industry’s ongoing skills gap and attract a diverse range of talent to be the leaders of tomorrow.
As global demand for energy services in buildings is projected to double by 2050, both current and future leaders are vital to achieving ambitions to decarbonise our industry and advance the energy transition. Driving forward the green agenda and unlocking opportunities for greater gender equity are goals that can and should align: a success in one is a cause for celebration for the other. The power of women as not only effective but essential drivers of change must not be underestimated; indeed, female leadership may prove to be the final key to unlocking the climate crisis.