Jobs and the Future of Work

Organizations with women managers are likely to have lower carbon emissions. Here’s why

An organization with more women managers is likely to have lower carbon emissions, research shows.

An organization with more women managers is likely to have lower carbon emissions, research shows. Image: Unsplash/Amy Hirschi

Yener Altunbaş
Professor of Banking, Bangor Business School
Leonardo Gambacorta
Head of Innovation and the Digital Economy, Bank for International Settlements
Alessio Reghezza
Lecturer in Economics, University of Genoa
Giulio Velliscig
Adjunct Professor of Computer Applications in Finance, University of Udine
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Jobs and the Future of Work?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Education, Gender and Work is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Education, Gender and Work

  • Researchers investigated the relationship between the percentage of women in managerial positions and carbon emissions within organizations.
  • A higher percentage of women managers is associated with lower levels of carbon emissions, the study shows.
  • Transmission of climate-oriented policies such as the Paris Agreement is also amplified by higher female representation in decision-making positions, the research says
  • This means that policies supporting gender diversity can have a significant impact on reducing an organization's emissions and combating climate change.

In recent years, climate change and its impact have been central to the global policy debate (Weder di Mauro 2021). Reducing the emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) is crucial for sustainable economic growth, preventing natural disasters. and preserving biodiversity. Given the scale of climate risks, achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 represents an urgent priority.

A growing body of research assesses solutions to mitigate climate change, including carbon pricing (van der Ploeg and Rezai 2018), a combination of public interventions and private sector mitigation strategies (Bolton et al. 2021), and international agreements (Altunbas et al. 2021). Yet at the firm level, the role of corporate governance, and in particular that of gender diversity within the firm, is largely overlooked.

The relationship between women managers and the environment

The gender socialisation theory (Chodorow 1978) and the social role theory (Eagly 1987) predict a positive impact of female decision-makers on environmental issues. This is because of women’s greater concern about the environment compared to men, and greater concerns about ethical issues more generally. Women are seen in these theories to be more community-minded and characterised by traits such as empathy, caring and concern for others. These theories find large support in the empirical literature. Prior research shows that firms with a greater female representation in their boards tend to have better governance quality and disclosure (Adams and Ferreira 2009) which facilitates decisions on corporate social responsibility and the environment (Eagly et al. 2003).

We take a different perspective and investigate the relationship between the percentage of women in managerial positions and carbon emissions within organisations (Altunbas et al, 2022). While directors’ decisions shape a firm’s approach to environmental issues, the implementation strategy rests with managers. It follows that if female managers are more inclined towards environmental protection than their male peers, a firm with more women managers is likely to display greater carbon emission reduction. A simple visual inspection of this relationship seems to indicate that a higher percentage of women managers is associated with lower levels of carbon emissions, suggesting that female managers can play an important role in reducing the firm’s pollution (Figure 1).

Figure 1 Correlation between firm women managers and carbon emissions

Correlation between firm women managers and carbon emissions
A firm with more women managers is likely to display greater carbon emission reduction. Image: VoxEu

Econometric evidence obtained from a sample of 1,951 listed corporates in 24 industrialised economies over the period 2009-2019 confirms this relationship. A 1 percentage point increase in the share of women managers within the firm leads to a 0.5% decrease in carbon emissions. This effect is statistically significant also when the empirical model is enriched to control for institutional differences caused by more patriarchal and hierarchical cultures and religions. At the same time, gender diversity at the managerial level has stronger mitigating effects on climate change if females are also well-represented outside the organisation (e.g. in political institutions and civil society organisations).

Discover

How is the World Economic Forum promoting equity in the workplace?

Women managers and CO2 emissions: A pre and post-Paris Agreement comparison

The Conference of the Parties Summit held in Glasgow in November 2021 (COP 26) revised the global agenda on climate change resulting from the 2015 Paris Agreement. Participating countries have agreed upon strengthening the pledges on carbon emissions reductions to try to keep temperature rises within 1.5°C (the threshold indicated by scientists to prevent climate disasters).

Figure 2 suggests that carbon emissions moved in a similar direction prior to the Paris Agreement for both firms with an above-median percentage of women managers and firms with a below-median percentage of female managers. However, it shows a larger reduction in the level of carbon emissions for those firms with an above-median percentage of women managers prior to the agreement after the Paris Agreement.

Figure 2 Trends in corporate carbon emissions before and after the Paris Agreement

After the Paris Agreement, firms with an above-median percentage of women managers decrease their carbon emissions by about 5% in comparison to firms with a below-median percentage.
After the Paris Agreement, firms with an above-median percentage of women managers decrease their carbon emissions by about 5% in comparison to firms with a below-median percentage. Image: VoxEu

Difference-in-differences estimations, which take into account possible endogeneity problems, confirm a negative and statistically significant relationship between firms with a greater percentage of female managers and carbon emissions. Specifically, after the Paris Agreement, firms with an above-median percentage of women managers decrease their carbon emissions by about 5% in comparison to firms with a below-median percentage. This result offers important policy indications. The transmission channels of climate-oriented policies such as the Paris Agreement are amplified by higher female representation in decision-making positions. Hence, policies that support gender diversity can have a complementary and significant impact on reducing firms’ GHG emissions and combating climate change.

Authors’ note: The views expressed in this column are those of the authors only. They do not necessarily represent the views of the BIS or the ECB.

Have you read?

References

Adams, R B, D Ferreira (2009), “Women in the boardroom and their impact on governance and performance”, Journal of Financial Economics 94: 291-309.

Altunbas, Y, D Marques-Ibanez, A Reghezza, C Rodriguez d’Acri, M Spaggiari (2021), “Financing climate change: International agreements and lending”, VoxEU.org, 21 May.

Altunbas Y, L Gambacorta, A Reghezza, G Velliscig (2022), “Does gender diversity in the workplace mitigate climate change?”, CEPR Discussion Paper 17159 (published also as BIS Working Paper 977 and ECB Working Paper 2650).

Bolton, P, H Hong, M Kacperczyk, X Vives (2021), “Resilience of the financial system to natural disasters”, VoxEU.org, 25 May.

Chodorow, N (1978), The reproduction of mothering: Psychoanalysis and the sociology of gender, Stanford University Press.

Eagly, A H (1987), Sex differences in social behavior: A social-role interpretation, Hillsdale.

Eagly, A H, M C Johannesen-Schmidt, M L van Eugen (2003), “Transformational, transactional and laissez-faire leadership styles: A meta-analysis comparing women and men”, Psychological Bulletin 129: 569-591.

Van der Ploeg, F and A Rezai (2018), “How to deal with climate change deniers: Price carbon!”, VoxEU.org, 05 January.

Weder di Mauro, B (2021), “Combatting climate change: A CEPR Collection”, VoxEU.org, 08 November.

Loading...
Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Jobs and the Future of WorkClimate Action
Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

Multinationals could help close parenthood wage gaps. This is how

Khadija van der Straaten, Niccolò Pisani and Ans Kolk

June 21, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum