On June 23, leading climate researchers and campaigners from across Canada and the United States came together for a half-day workshop focused on sharing the latest research and strategies for engaging women on climate.
Watch the session recordings here:
5 Key Takeaways From the Event
Before we dive into the insights, we would like to acknowledge that gender exists on a spectrum and there are multiple gender identities and expressions. When we talk about engaging women in the context of this workshop, we are talking about approaching climate communications through an intersectional, feminine, holistic lens - one that tends to resonate more with those who identify as women.
Here are 5 key takeaways for communicators to consider when engaging women on climate
Key point 1: Men and women are both alarmed and concerned about climate change, however, research shows that women have a higher levels of worry, sensitivity to risk and loss aversion.
Dr. Connie Roser-Renouf, Co-Principal Investigator of the Yale/George Mason University Climate Change in the American Mind Audience research program shared that under Yale’s Global Warming’s Six Americas model, women fall into the following segments:
23% are alarmed
34% are concerned
17% are cautious
9% are dismissive
Figure 1. Dr. Connie Roser- Renouf shared her research findings from Global Warming’s six Americas, six unique audiences that differentiate by levels of concern and understanding of climate change segmented by gender.
According to Sarah Lazarovic (VP Marketing of Clean Prosperity) and Dr. Louise Comeau (Research Associate, Conservation Council of New Brunswick) Canada shares similar findings when it comes to the gap in gender segmentation. Communicators looking to engage the moveable “concerned” segments should note that women have higher sensitivity to risk and loss aversion. Ad testing and campaign results show that women respond well to messaging that nurtures pro-environmental values, calls for collective action and provides hope for a better future. The “later is too late” messaging resonates really well with this group.
Key point 2: Children are a good motivator for mothers to take climate action but be weary of gender essentialism — instead, speak to values and shared identities.
The promise of a better future for our children may be a good entry point for climate conversations with mothers, but as Dr. Louise Comeau suggests, “we don’t want to fall into gender essentialism”. Fathers, uncles, grandparents — they all want a better future for their children too and they share strong biocentric and collective values with mothers, regardless of gender. According to Dr. Comeau, a biocentric worldview sees humans as one part of nature, with nature’s needs and rights being just as important as humanity’s needs and rights.
So how do we nurture and activate biocentric values? Louise explains “Not all of us need to be fixated on policy, politics and technology. We can focus on practice and help flesh out the whole picture.” This means using frames that nurture environmentally intrinsic values (connectedness to and love of and respect for nature, empathy) and motivation towards environmental practice (e.g., autonomy, competence and relatedness).
Key point 3: Policy is not marketing. Use plain, vivid, universal language to meet your audience where they are at.
John Marshall, CEO of the Potential Energy Coalition said it best when he shared “The 7% most highly engaged activists know no more about climate change than anyone else… nobody wakes up thinking what a great day for decarbonization." Most people don’t know and don’t understand policy — try not to lead with this in your communications. Instead, opt for a people-centered approach through trusted messengers that use simple, straightforward language to connect with your audience.
The most successful campaigns convey the following messages:
I get it
It matters to me
It matters to people like me
Segment your audience and create personas for the women you want to engage and then meet them where they are at. For inspiration, check out the amazing ads produced by the Potential Energy Coalition:
Key Point 4: Women of colour are the backbone of the climate movement but they are some of the most underrepresented people in the media. Amplify their voice. Fund their work.
The Solutions Project is a national nonprofit organization that promotes climate justice through grantmaking and amplifying the stories of frontline community leaders in the media.
The organization seeks to accelerate the transition to 100% renewable energy and equitable access to healthy air, water and land by supporting climate justice organizations, especially those led by women of color.
During the opening panel, Sekita Grant, VP Programs of The Solutions Project shared some sobering statistics. Even though women of colour led over 160 clean energy projects in the United States between 2015 - 2019, only 2% of clean energy news coverage referenced communities of color, let alone women of color. Even worse, less than 1% of climate philanthropy goes towards supporting women of colour in their efforts.
BIPOC women are essential to the climate movement, and we must do better in representing women of colour in our communications. Help amplify their stories, let others know there are women out there that look like them, think like them and care in all the same ways that they do. Representation and deep meaningful engagement is key.
Key point 5: Marketing is not engagement. To effectively engage women on climate, we must create safe spaces for conversation and connection.
One recurring theme from the climate campaign lab sessions was the need for community. Women share just as much concern as men when it comes to climate change but when it comes to inspiring confidence and action there is a competence gap. Women often know just as much if not more than men, but they experience a lack of confidence when it comes to articulating their opinions, both in social spaces and among friends and family. We can bridge that gap by creating spaces for women to connect, share their experiences, ask questions and deepen their learning.
Other useful resources shared by participants during the workshop:
Article from The Guardian: IPCC steps up warning on climate tipping points in leaked draft report
Potential Energy Coalition Climate ads:
What not to do: Twitter thread on buzzwords people hate
Our Kids Climate, a group that shows us internationally how parents, grandparents are coming together in response to children’s voices.
How to Save a Planet Podcast episode on how to talk climate with family ft Bob Inglis
Conservation Council of New Brunswick “For the Love Of” Videos
Dear Tomorrow, an award-winning climate storytelling project where people write messages to loved ones living in the future.