Gender and Climate Change: How Climate Change Impacts Women

By Sher Warkentin in Thinking Sustainably

You may already be aware that climate change impacts populations differently based on geography, economics, race, and ethnicity. But did you know that gender can be a significant factor as well? Learn more about how gender and climate change are linked and how women and girls are disproportionately affected by the global climate crisis.

The Relationship between Gender and Climate Change

Climate change is a global crisis, but people feel its impact differently based on several factors, including gender. Climate change and women's rights are inextricably linked. The climate crisis also heightens the existing social, economic, and political threats and dangers that women already face across the globe.

A woman protests climate change inequality.


According to the United Nations, one of the reasons women are more likely to feel the impacts of climate change is because they disproportionately represent low-income populations. Women make up 70 percent of the 1.3 billion people in the world living in poverty. Since low-income communities bear the brunt of the climate crisis, this puts women at higher risk.

Health Care Access

Gender inequality is another factor that influences access to health care, education, and equal rights. Women in poorer, climate-impacted communities tend to have lower socioeconomic status and less access to education and health care, making them more vulnerable than men.

Maternal health care in particular faces a significant impact from climate change. Decreased access to clean water and food compromises the health of pregnant women and their developing babies. Research also shows that extreme heat can lead to pregnancy complications. According to one study, just a single-degree increase during the week prior to delivery was linked to a 6 percent increase in stillbirth risk.

Economic Impact

In many parts of the globe, women are more dependent on the natural resources most under threat from global warming. In low-income, rural areas that are more prone to natural disasters, women tend to make up the majority of agricultural workers. When severe droughts or flooding affect the agricultural industries in these regions, women are at greater risk of economic impact.

Not only does this mean women lose income in the present, but it also translates into long-term economic impact as young girls leave school to help provide for their families. While literacy rates are rising worldwide for both men and women, there's still a literacy gap. As of 2020, 90 percent of men compared to roughly 83 percent of women were literate across the globe. That gap means fewer opportunities for women, creating a vicious generational cycle.

In many of these same regions, women are predominantly responsible for child care. This responsibility makes it even more difficult for women to leave their communities and elevate their social and economic status.

Gender and race impact climate change threats.

Intersectionality and Climate Impact

When you consider that both women and people of color are more impacted by climate change, it's easy to see how women of color are at greater risk of climate crisis effects than men of color or white women alone. This is an excellent example of how intersectionality helps us understand inequality dynamics. The same applies to all minority groups that intersect with women, including people in the LGBTQ+ community, Indigenous people, and women with disabilities.

How Women Can Create Positive Change

While women are more vulnerable to the impacts of the climate crisis on a global scale, they're also on the front lines of the drive for change. The same factors that put women at greater risk of climate change can make it challenging for them to enact the changes needed to reduce global warming. However, the relationship between climate change and women's rights makes women some of the best advocates for a better world. Many local grassroots organizations fighting climate change in these impacted communities are composed of and led by women.

Understanding how climate issues and women's rights intersect can help raise awareness about gender inequality and help focus efforts toward building climate resilience. The more you know about the issues, the more equipped you are to take action and support real change.

Read about the Giving For Goodness program to learn more about what Tom's of Maine is doing to build healthier communities and support organizations combating environmental issues.

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Why It's Good

Women may be at greater risk from the global climate crisis, but it also makes them some of the best advocates for change. Raising awareness of inequalities can inspire more people to join the cause.