Discrimination against women is widespread. This is morally unacceptable and makes it impossible to achieve well-being for all.

In debates about the environment, women's empowerment is often considered solely as a driver in reducing global population growth. This completely ignores women's other roles in society. And it overlooks the need for their contributions to better decision-making in governments, businesses and communities.

Our book Why Women Will Save The Planet provided the evidence that we cannot achieve environmental sustainability without gender equality. We've identified two Big Ideas to take us along this pathway - making equality of opportunity a reality, and valuing and sharing caring responsibilities. What do you think of these?

Big Idea - Equality of opportunity: make rights real with genuine recognition

Despite much rhetoric, in the real world politics is still dominated by elites. These are typically wealthy, often white, and predominantly male. The barriers to participation faced by disadvantaged and oppressed groups, including women, are real and high. So making political rights a reality for all citizens has to begin with recognising – and actively compensating for - the inequalities and obstacles that arise from identity, gender, inheritance, education, etc. 

Equal recognition and rights demand targeted policies and support as much as they need universal measures such as improved childcare or citizen’s incomes. We can learn from Scandinavian countries where promotion of parental leave and rules on women’s representation in politics and business has had a positive impact.

Big Idea - Valuing Care: recognising and rewarding “women’s work”

Care for our fellow humans - such as care for children or the elderly - is central to what it means to be human. Yet in the modern world it is often invisible in economic accounting and financially unvalued.

In most societies care is viewed as “women’s work”, as is taking care of the home or providing food. While a citizens’ income would help partly address this injustice - as would measures and indicators of economic activity that account for this labour – deeper change is needed.

Political, business and cultural leaders need to lead norm change through practical behaviours that demonstrate the intrinsic values of this work, for example by working shorter weeks and sharing caring duties. Management Today magazine showcased 50 part-time business leaders in 2016, many of who spent part of the week on ‘caring duties’.

Related Big Ideas

See also Big Ideas on Participation in Cities, Measuring Wellbeing and Basic Incomes in Business.

Further Reading

Friends of the Earth (2015), Why Women will Save the Planet, a collection of essays, Zed Books

Management Today (2016), These are the UK’s 50 most powerful executives


Big Ideas Change the World is a Friends of the Earth project. It seizes the biggest ideas out there for enhancing our lives, preventing the mass-extinction of species and looking after the planet.

Picture of women who have done great work for the environment