Global Resources

Are Women the Key to Sustainable Development?

Author: C Stevens
Publisher: Boston University Frederick Pardee Center for the study of the longer-range future
Publication Date: Apr 2010

Progress in achieving the sustainable development goals has been very slow, so has been progress in achieving gender equality. Is there a link between these two trends? The three pillars of sustainable development - social, environment and economic – are also relevant to discussions of gender equality. An increasing number of studies indicate that gender inequalities are extracting high economic costs and leading to social inequities and environmental degradation around the world. This paper reviews the findings of the existing body of gender research on the subject. For instance, from the economic angle, traditional attitudes leading to gender inequalities in the work force have exacerbated the economic crisis by not giving women equal employment opportunities, access to non-traditional jobs, flexible working arrangements, equal pay and suitable affordable childcare. This has led to women not being able to contribute substantially to the economy. The paper concludes that sustainable development is about good governance, which will be hard to achieve until we get closer to gender parity. Research is needed to test the hypothesis that women are more risk-averse than men and that women leaders would be more apt to follow sustainable development pathways. Given the importance of gender to sustainability, these issues should feature more prominently in sustainable development discussions and be highlighted in a 2012 UN Conference on Sustainability Development.