Updated: Apr 6
The pandemic, economic crisis, supply chain disruptions, great resignation and the onset of more severe weather from the climate crisis are some of the major challenges we collectively face in 2022. As many challenges as we face, there are even more opinions about how to solve them. We are at a turning point, the decisions governments, nonprofits, industry and individuals make today will shape the world we live in for the next 100 years.
So what is the best solution?
I would argue, whatever challenge we address, the solution should be gender-focused.
In 2022, we are collectively facing some of the biggest challenges of our lifetimes. The female population is both the most impacted and the population most able to make an impact.
When we consider:
The climate crisis
Building healthy and resilient communities
Overconsumption and waste
Women are one the most marginalized populations and thus are most impacted by world challenges.
Women feel the effects of the climate crisis first and worst as women make up a majority of the world’s poor and are more dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods. At the same time, women also have less decision-making power and resources to help themselves out of their climate-caused challenges. Women are the primary fetchers of water for agriculture and domestic use and cooking fuel and are forced to spend more time traveling longer distances as resources are destroyed or diminished.
As two thirds to 90% of agricultural workers in developing countries and Africa, respectively, are women, the droughts, floods and environmental degradation of land impacts women’s ability to make a living and feed themselves and their families.
Overconsumption & Waste
Women are the primary workforce for low paid and dangerous manufacturing jobs fueling overconsumption and the waste crisis. Women are also most impacted by the health impact of these industries pollution, biodiversity loss and waste. Most informal and sometimes unpaid waste workers are also women.
The Great Resignation
Women still lead those who have left the workforce. The rate of women who have left their jobs is twice that of men. Much of this is due to burnout and a higher burden of childcare and domestic duties at home during the pandemic. Women’s participation in the labor force is the lowest it’s been in 30 years and it seems many of these workers are simply mothers who were forced out of the labor force. 
Trust in democracy
Democracy is getting less democratic and authoritarian governments and movements are taking hold around the world. Polarization is on the rise as well. This de-democratization has coincided with increasing opposition to gender equality and threats to previous gender equality policy gains. 
Trust in democracy
It has been long accepted by political scientists that women’s rights and democracy go hand in hand. By supporting increased participation of women in the political process, we can strengthen democratic institutions. In electing more women (and other underrepresented groups) to political positions, citizens feel that the government more accurately represents them and also translates into greater trust in democracy.
The Great Resignation
The pandemic has highlighted the burden of domestic work, child care and elder care which is disproportionately taken on by women. The good news is that incorporating more flexible schedules, strategic work planning and investing in childcare and senior care drastically lessens the impact of domestic work for women and others. Governments and companies are moving slowly in implementing necessary policies and changes but a positive trend is clear. Canada just passed an $8 per day childcare service and new companies like The Mom Project (themomproject.com) focus on connecting mom’s with companies and jobs that prioritize a work-life balance.
Overconsumption & Waste
Women are the primary buyers and influencers on the consumption and purchasing habits of a household. By empowering women with information and incentives, women can become key change agents and help decouple economic growth and environmental degradation to achieve a true circular economy.
“Surveys from around the world show that women tend to be more sustainable consumers and are more sensitive to ecological, environmental and health concerns. Women are more likely to recycle, minimize wastage, buy organic food and eco-labelled products, and engage in water and energy savings initiatives at the household level. They also place a higher value on energy-efficient transport and in general have a higher preference for public transport than men.” 
Sustainable management of waste using the reduce-reuse-recycle ideology in conjunction with technology is estimated to increase GDP by 7% and household disposable income by 11% in Europe as well as make local companies more competitive and create jobs. (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Growth Within: A Circular Economy Vision for a Competitive Europe, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2015) The impact on women is even more positive considering women’s role in performing household tasks and waste management. A move towards a circular economy could mean more economic opportunities for women, boosting female employment and representation in green entrepreneurship.
If women farmers were given equal access to the needed resources, they could increase food production by up to 30 percent
and help as many as 150 million people suffering from hunger according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Empowering female farmers is needed to increase sustainable, increased food production needed to feed the population of the future. It is also hypothesized that with further resources and decision-making power, women who are more likely to engage in sustainable and organic agriculture, would invest in creating more sustainable agriculture systems.
Women’s empowerment and education will help curb climate change.
One way in which this is shown to be true is through reduced population growth. This is not through population control, rather,through giving women power and options over family planning. Armed with agency, women on average chose to have fewer children and chose to have children later in life which puts less stress on ecosystems from overuse, allowing them to recover. By educating and empowering women, more women will engage in formal work and provide the needed additional hands and minds required to work on climate solutions. Research also shows that countries with higher female parliamentary representation are more likely to ratify international environment treaties. 
All in all, working towards gender equality and women’s education and empowerment is key to many of the issues faced in the world today. For full bellies, resilient communities, a livable climate, work-life balance, bustling economy, waste-free environment and strong & fair democracies, let’s invest in women!
UNDP, Human Development Report 2011. Sustainability and Equity: A Better Future for All (New York: UNDP, 2011