Why Women Are Important To Save The Planet

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by Aliye P.Celik, PhD, Chair, Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization

As we all know, to reduce climate change, achieving sustainable urbanization, albeit a gargantuan task is very important in this century.  We acknowledge the urban challenges of climate change, movement of people, conflicts and pandemics as they have a profound impact on the living conditions in cities which have historically operated as engines of growth and development. As the Secretary General of the UN says:

Cities are also on the frontlines of the climate crisis. More than half a billion urban residents already face rising sea levels and more frequent or severe storms. By mid-century more than 3.3 billion urban residents could be at risk from severe climate impacts. Cities also have an outsize carbon footprint. With just over half the global population, they emit more than 70 percent of global greenhouse gases.”

Architects, planners and design professionals, are and will be playing a critical role in shaping growth capacity of cities so that cities are able to absorb the predicted 2.5 billion people moving into urban areas in the next 30 years as the world reaches 10 billion people with 70 percent living in cities. Sometimes one wonders whether architects, design professionals and developers are aware of this heavy load and responsibility on their shoulders.

United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 11 on Cities and Communities, SDG 5 on Women’s Rights and the New Urban Agenda are useful blue prints to be achieved and implemented in the next 30 years in order to have healthy cities that do not worsen climate change and provide a healthy environment that is equitable and just. 

All architects should approach the topic of sustainable cities based on their education and professionalism, with the same objective of making the world a better place. Energy consumption in buildings both during construction and at the maintenance stage, transportation systems, and use of energy sources, infrastructure, and the design of buildings will determine the impact of cities and buildings on the climate change. The gender of the designer should not affect the success of the designer as design, science, technology are gender neutral. What makes a difference is their commitment to the cause, and interest, capacity and passion to deliver the best results.

Architectural historian Kuban says, “If one is to consider solely the topic as an act of design one cannot say that women designers show different approaches in solving architectural issues or that they produce different solutions from male designers”. Buildings are designed in accordance to the owner’s needs, their functions, financial criteria, rules and regulations, availability of technology, materials, workforce, and environmental concerns. As long as they serve the purpose they are designed for and comply with the standards and ratings systems such as U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) they are not impacted by the gender of their designers. What is important is to have both men and women on the design team. We now know as a fact that in countries where women are not educated economic, social, environmental and cultural development cannot be sustained. 

When we look at the architectural offices, there is still a gender pay gap between male and female architects. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that in 2015 female architects earned 79.4 percent of what their male counterparts did. Also there are fewer women architects in leadership positions. Design Leadership requires the ability to be open and transparent about the way ideas and design knowledge is conceived, transmitted and fostered in the organization. One thing that seems to hamper the rise of women architects across the field of architecture is the cult of genius in some practices and in the profession usually benefitting men.

Gould and Hasey say that “research reveals that women are much more likely than men to support environmental causes—through their work, consumer choices, voting, and activism. The average carbon footprint of women also is considerably lower—by nearly 20 percent. When Hasey surveyed  nearly 550 architects and designers across the country to gauge their knowledge and interest in climate change and energy-efficient design, the responses show that men are 11 percent less likely to say that combating climate change is important for architects. Women were more unassuming but more knowledgeable about climate change and energy-efficient design, and more committed to action.” 

Anecdotally women may be more sensitive to sustainability due to their maternal instincts, to improve, protect and nurture however this statement needs more research to prove it. Emerging, interdisciplinary areas such as climate change and sustainable urbanization may attract women architects, where they can flourish as there is less competition from men. Luckily, the numbers of women in leadership roles at architectural practices, in communities, in politics and in the sustainable development world are increasing and women’s voices are being heard. Women are pushing the frontier of sustainability with their innovative ideas and willingness to think outside the box.

Today it is a very well known fact that to achieve economic, social and environmental development; men and women need to have equal rights and responsibilities. However since the first UN Conference on Women that took place in 1975, women still could not acquire equal rights and responsibilities .Despite the fact that women constitute 50 % of the world’s population, they receive only one tenth of the global revenue and they own 2% of the global assets. Generally speaking women are poorer than men in every society without the same opportunities and encouragement to be as educated as men. of cities and buildings.

At the 65th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) adopted a document that recognizes the need to significantly accelerate the pace in ensuring women a place in government and public sector leadership  acknowledging that temporary special measures, such as quotas, and increased political will are needed as an enabling pathway to this goal. 

To prevent climate change women need all their rights to serve as effective educators, professionals, architects and save the planet.