Why Do Women Climate More Than Men?

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Twice a year, I look forward to putting together this Theatre in the Age of Climate Change series. The depth and breadth of work being done at this intersection reminds me that though there are plenty of reasons to despair (here’s one of them), there are also countless people determined to keep the planet habitable, and all of its creatures alive and thriving. Please join me this week for another edition of Theatre in the Age of Climate Change.—Chantal Bilodeau

I have been doing work at the intersection of arts and climate change for over a decade, and though I have no scientific data to back what I’m about to say, I have observed that women climate much more than men—that is to say, this particular intersection is overwhelmingly female. I have found this to be true again and again, whether I’m leading workshops, commissioning playwrights, or publishing essays by artists who engage with the issue. As soon as you say “arts” and “climate change” in the same sentence, the traditional male/female ratio gets reversed.

In a world where we have to fight tooth and nail for equal representation, how did women manage to claim a space, let alone that space, for themselves? Although this state of affairs seems to be true in all of the arts, including the theatre, it is certainly not true in the sciences. According to the National Girls Collaborative Project, women make up only 29 percent of the science and engineering workforce. And my own unscientific observations, based on who I meet at universities and climate change conferences, confirm that there are far more male climate scientists than female. So, what is it about the intersection of arts and climate change that attracts women, or, at the very least, that hasn’t caught most men’s attention yet?

Since we are the primary caretakers of children, I suppose it follows that we would be the primary caretakers of the planet. How we bond with our offspring must be similar to how we bond with nature and our environment. In almost all cultures Mother Earth is female so there is clearly a deep-rooted connection; think of Gaia (Greek), Pachamama (Inca), Jörð (Norse). Not to mention the countless female deities associated with nature such as goddesses of water, wild animals, mountains, forests, etc. But while this reasoning may be partly true, I hesitate to see it as absolute and reinforce traditional gender roles. If the nurturing impulse was the sole driving force, we would be a majority in more than one discipline that has climate change as its primary focus.

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