The Biggest Obstacle In The Climate Fight? Not Enough Women Leaders – Q&A w/ She Changes Climate Co-Founder Bianca Pitt
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She Changes Climate was founded in 2020 by Bianca Pitt, Antoinette Vermilye and Elise Buckle, with a mission to bring diversity into the COP international climate negotiations. Right now, the organisation is laser focused on broadening inclusion at the upcoming COP26 in November, with a goal to achieve a 50:50 split between men and women in the U.K.’s delegation. Ultimately, they have an ambitious goal to get fair representation across all delegations globally. We had the chance to speak to co-founder Bianca, who shared more about the organisation’s targets, challenges they face along the way, and what inspires her to keep going.
GQ: What is She Changes Climate’s mission?
BP: She Changes Climate was co-created by a group of female environmental leaders in response to the UK COP26 Team being announced as team composed of men alone. The COP is the Conference of the Parties, another name for the international climate negotiations, taking place in November, so that nations agree to targets and an action plan. Given the climate emergency we are in, this conference needs to be a success for us all and deliver results.
Research shows that when women are brought into leadership in government and business, this results in better climate policy and policy implementation. We are therefore calling for the UK team to be 50:50 balanced, with 50% women and 50% men co-leading. We are also calling for all delegations to show that 50:50 balance, and for the Nationally Determined Targets, which each nation has to submit, to also include targets to that effect. We are calling this ‘50:50 Vision’ and invite everybody to adopt this as their own target and campaign. With 50:50 we can finally be 100% successful.
Urgent action is required now that Climate Scientists have forecast that we will reach a state of Climate Chaos by 2030, and we will need to take some bold decisions to avert that.
GQ: What are some of your key goals over the next 3-5 years?
BP: Speaking to representatives of the UN and Government in the UK we found that the absence of women in leadership was a systemic fault itself – women were not automatically considered an essential component of successful leadership. The more we looked into this, we began to wonder whether the lack of women in leadership was not also the reason we have made so little progress on climate? The research confirmed that.
We need new architects to build a sustainable future, which will ultimately benefit us all. It is unreasonable to expect the architects of our old systems to now pull them down and change them. You would not sail the world with one eye firmly patched up, and we cannot take decisive action without encompassing women’s viewpoints, given they are 51% of the world’s population. Women are caring, passionate and innovative leaders, who are happy to challenge the status quo. It is estimated that we can add $12 trillion to the global economy if we give women equal standing and equity! Our key goal is to get women and men together to lead us out of this crisis. We will not solve the climate and biodiversity crisis without women at the helm.
GQ: What is your background – how did you get into climate work?
BP: I had a career in Law, Business, Media and Corporate Finance when I took a break to have my first child, a girl. It gave me time to read about the world more broadly and what I learnt was alarming: that our environment was in serious jeopardy and that the future that I had envisaged for my child was gravely endangered as a result. I decided to not go back to work ‘as normal’, but to instead address the climate, biodiversity, pollution & waste crisis by looking at who was doing what around the world. I also decided to fundraise for environmental charities, connect people with each other and fund initiatives myself, such as endowing the first Chair for Environmental Sustainability at INSEAD, one of the world’s leading business schools. I am also on the boards of ClientEarth, The Environmental Funders Network, The Sustainable Angle and Action for Conservation.
GQ: Do you think climate change affects women differently? Do we bear a larger part of the burden?
BP: COVID-19, which is a result of our environmental destruction, has served as an unwelcome, although timely, reminder of the fundamental interconnectedness of environmental, social, and economic systems. Women have been disproportionately affected by it – they were more likely to lose their jobs and less likely to return to them, bear the burden of home schooling and childcare, as well as house work, were the victims of violence at home. Around the world we see women also being more negatively affected by global heating, particularly in the Global South, where 200m people are forecast to lose their homes over the next decades as a result of rising sea levels, storms etc. But what is often forgotten: when women suffer, men suffer too. It is in all our interest that we restore our climate again and not go past the tipping points.
GQ: What do you see as the biggest obstacles stopping us from making progress on the climate issue?
BP: The biggest obstacle is the lack of women in leadership in Business and Government.
GQ: What’s the #1 the average person can do to contribute?
BP: If you are a woman: lean in. If you are a man: reach out. Vote for women, retweet women, buy from women, invest in women. Ask them questions, let them speak and listen to them. Let them co-lead. For the international climate negotiations at COP26: check that your country is sending a 50:50 Vision team to the Conference in Glasgow. If you are already a climate leader: please sign our petition for more women here: www.shechangesclimate.org. And please feel free to donate towards our campaign too.
GQ: What are some of the issues that people aren’t talking about enough?
BP: We have all not realised how incredibly biased we have been against women. Even women themselves suffer from that bias. It is good to reflect on that, think about how is has affected us throughout our lives, how it has influenced our decisions. Once we are aware of the bias, we can do something about it. We need to get back to respecting the feminine viewpoint – excluding it is currently leading us to extinction.
GQ: Do you believe changing our global food systems is key to addressing the climate issue?
BP: Our current Food, Agriculture and Land Use System is fuelling global heating and biodiversity loss, which in turn will lead to humanitarian disaster previously unknown. We must change this urgently. Food should always be seasonal and local and we must not waste any of it. I have also been buying only organic food for the last 10 years, as I know that the cocktail of chemicals that is sprayed onto our fields and ends up in our food is very toxic to our health. My mother already taught me that. I am now investing in regenerative farming at home, which puts back goodness into soil, rather than destroying it. It is a model of farming we had a 100 years ago, which turns out to have been sustainable. We should be investing in regenerative-everything now!
Lead image courtesy of Bianca Pitt.