It may come as a shock to many that we’re still a long way off gender equality in Australia. As Equal Pay Day highlighted last week, full-time employed women are taking home about $260 a week less than their male colleagues. But it’s not just pay where women are being dudded. Even our changing climate worsens power relations.
Research shows gender inequality is more pronounced during severe weather events, which are becoming more frequent and extreme thanks to climate change.
During and after disasters such as droughts, cyclones and bushfires, gender stereotypes of “macho” men and “caring” women intensify. This can result in increased violence against women at home and evacuation centres, more caregiving pressures for women and greater risk of depression for men. Climate change impacts also affect men and women differently – for example, women are more likely to die during disasters in developing countries.
How do we change this? People who are disadvantaged by climate change must take part in local, national and global decision-making to ensure climate policy does not reinforce inequalities.
Yet only two women have ever become Australia’s minister for environment or climate change. Women also comprise less than 40 per cent of representatives at United Nations meetings to develop climate change policy, with even lower participation of women from developing countries. The people most affected by climate change are therefore unheard.
Former Australians of the Year Rosie Batty and David Morrison have sparked conversations about unequal distribution of resources, power and opportunities between women and men. This important dialogue must extend to climate change. Gender and other inequalities will worsen unless climate policy addresses injustices.
Dr Naomi Joy Godden is a research fellow at Monash University.
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