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Who’s winning the battle of the sexes over sustainability?

Who is more of a catalyst for change when it comes to sustainability - men or women?
Photo by Jason Merritt

Is there a gender gap when it comes to being environmentally responsible? Maybe. According to the findings of at least one survey, women appear to have an edge over men in regard to being agents for positive change.

That was the takeaway from Net Impact’s “Talent Report: What Workers Want” survey of some 1,726 respondents in 2012. In an interview with, Net Impact CEO Liz Maw revealed: “Organizations that seek to attract and retain women should take notice. [The survey] clearly shows that women care deeply about having a job that makes an impact on social and environmental causes.”

The study also found that women are more likely to take active steps toward meeting sustainability goals than men. In fact, 19 percent of men compared with 28 percent of women surveyed have contributed to a Green Team or other environmental effort.

Also, 43 percent of women were more apt to have worked directly on a product or service that has a positive social or environmental impact compared to 35 percent of men.

In a recent article in The Guardian, Kathrin Winkler, chief sustainability officer for the IT company EMC listed the characteristics prevalent in women that may give them an edge in the effort to promote sustainability in the workplace. These include:

  • Connectedness – “In sustainability, it’s vitally important to connect to people, businesses and customers – really everyone – if you hope to achieve the aspirations you have for your company and industry,” says Winkler. “While traditional boys’ games teach important skills for clearly delineating and separating roles, the key to good communication in this role is in finding that common ground.”
  • Collaboration – Women’s leadership style tend to be open to team work, according to Winkler. “Without this collaboration and buy-in across different departments, setting new corporate sustainability goals this year – such as greenhouse gas reductions, supply chain responsibility and community engagement – wouldn’t have been possible.”
  • Giving credit – “People want to feel good about what they’ve done, and when we shine a light on their accomplishments … it instills pride and inspires them to want to do more,” says Winkler.
  • Empowerment – “Evidence shows that, in general, women are more reluctant than men to ask for what they feel they deserve,” Winkler notes. “But boy, will we fight for others! Sustainability is all about fighting for others, especially for future generations.”

So men, if you want to keep up with women in the quest for sustainability bragging rights, the key may be to get more in touch with your feminine side.

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