International Women’s Day: "Improving diversity is not just a box ticking exercise, it’s a business imperative." | Climate Group Skip to main content
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International Women’s Day: "Improving diversity is not just a box ticking exercise, it’s a business imperative."

8 March 2022, 9:00 UTC 6 min read

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is #BreakTheBias, ending discrimination and stereotypes against women. At Climate Group we recognise that gender bias keeps women from achieving their full potential across all walks of life and that they’re disproportionately impacted by climate change. We're committed to changing this cycle and have developed a strong diversity principle that runs through the centre of our organisation, acknowledging the importance of female representation across all areas. 

More emphasis needs to be placed on gender balance to achieve net zero by 2050. We have seen seismic shifts towards net zero by hundreds of businesses in high-emitting systems like energy, transport, the built environment and industry. But we must pick up the pace, and a big part of that is having equitable workplaces. The latest IPCC report, released on 28 February, demonstrates the impact that climate change is already having on the world’s most vulnerable people, and in particular, women, the young and elderly. This is a wake up call to businesses and governments to work harder to mitigate impacts by placing climate change risk front and centre of their strategies.

To mark International Women’s Day, we spoke to the three inspirational women leading Climate Group’s offices in the UK, India, and the US on some of their achievements and what inspires them to keep fighting for diversity in the climate space and beyond. 

“We need to challenge the systems that prioritise the values and interests of men over women, the global North over the global South, and age over youth.” 

Helen Clarkson, Chief Executive of Climate Group

Here they are in their own words:

Helen Clarkson, Chief Executive of Climate Group, said:

Inspired by my first non-profit role in humanitarian aid work whilst at Médecins Sans Frontières, I gradually moved over into environmental work as I started to think about what happens when you move upstream of a problem: so many health problems, humanitarian crises, conflicts, have environmental issues at their heart – for example, disputes over natural resources are key drivers for many conflicts. Climate change is the most urgent environmental issue and exacerbates all the others. 

There are lots of women who inspire me in this space. I was recently on a panel with a group of women at the World Sustainable Development Summit, and it was a fantastic discussion. We heard from: 

However, to me these aren’t just women in the space that inspire me, they’re leaders who inspire me regardless of gender. The fact that they’re all women means we’ve done a lot of great work in the climate space already. 

We need to be profiling a lot more diversity in the climate space than just gender: racial diversity, diversity of thought, diversity in terms of class and caste. It is not just a moral imperative; it is also necessary to create the change we need at the pace we need it. 

If we’re going to respond as a sector to the vast challenges ahead of us, then improving diversity is not just a box ticking exercise, but an essential measure to improve our sector’s ability to see problems and solutions from as many perspectives as possible.   

“We need more female leaders who can see beyond politics and profit and bring long-term sustainability into the fore". 

Divya Sharma, Climate Group’s India Executive Director

Divya Sharma, Climate Group’s India Executive Director, said:

There are many women who have shaped me as a person and as a professional. My mother in particular inspired me with her courage and grit and also stood by me in the worst of circumstances. I was lucky to have professors and mentors who prepared me to face the rather unfair world ahead of me and several colleagues and my female managers who supported and furthered my career. These women are not only who I looked up to but had an active role in shaping my personality and career.

We need to understand as to why women are disproportionately affected by climate change. In many instances, particularly in the developing world but across cultures, females bear the double burden for fending for their families while also being the caregiver to their children, elderly and men in the family. The other reason is, while women take the major share of household and economic burden, they do not proportionately have access to basic services including mobility, education and health. Climate change exacerbates the burden these women bear. For example, in rural India, or the arid regions of the world, reduced water availability can lead to loss of what would have otherwise been these women’s economically productive time, instead they're walking miles together each day to bring water for the family.

We don’t live in a perfect world but can contribute towards one. By becoming one such contributor these mentors/ role models are like strong anchors – I was lucky to have more than one in my life. The one best lesson these women have taught me, and I try to emulate, is to make myself available to other women who may need that little push, mentoring and nurturing in their lives.  

We need female voices to bring out these nuances of climate impacts more fairly and emphatically than ever before. We need more female leaders who can see beyond politics and profit and bring long-term sustainability into the fore while working towards changing the lives of women and girls at the margins.

"Solutions must come from everywhere and involve everyone – one sector can’t solve the climate crisis alone.” 

Angela Barranco, Climate Group’s US Executive Director

Angela Barranco, Climate Group’s Executive Director for North America, said:

Representation is critically important – there's nothing like seeing someone who shares your personal experiences in the space that interests you. It’s incredibly impactful to have people who share your experiences and values as mentors and role models.  

At the beginning of my career, I was studying to become a scientist which led me to an interest in climate and conservation. As part of my studies, I got the opportunity to do a summer programme that focused on changing climate impact on biodiversity. While out in the field studying different species and ecosystems, I had this “wow” moment where I realised that everything is interconnected. And because we are all interconnected, the climate crisis is something we all must work to address. From that moment, I knew I had to take a whole-of-society approach and engage the private and public sector in my work. That summer, and that moment of clarity, drastically changed my trajectory from scientist to advocate.

Women need to be heard and included in the greater conversation. There wasn’t a lot of female leadership at the start of my career, but that’s changing now. Women can find mentorship, leadership and vision in each other.

There are so many wonderful and amazing women that I’ve had the opportunity to work with. Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board, is an incredible powerhouse of a person who dedicated her life to climate and the environment. She absolutely talks the talk and walks the walk. I worked with Gina McCarthy, White House National Climate Advisor, in her former role as an EPA Administrator and appreciate her “get it done” attitude. I am also very inspired by Colette Pichon Battle, Esq, Co-Executive Director of Gulf Coast Center for Law and Policy; and Nicole Hernandez Hammer, climate advocate for the Union of Concerned Scientists.

We must enhance collaboration across the private sector, public sector, academic world and civil society so that we’re not only thinking about how we commit to a better future but also how we hold ourselves accountable to our goals. This year, we need to define better ways to be more in-sync as a global community to ensure everyone is heard and no one is left behind.