Role of Women in Sustainability and Climate Change

For the next edition of Sustainability For Breakfast (S4B), we decided to focus on the women in sustainability and climate change. The platform, in association with YES Bank, witnessed women leaders from sustainability come together to discuss the current and future roles of women in the sector as well as draw recommendations to improve the gender gap issue across the country. The opening address for the event was by, Namita Vikas, Group President & Global Head, Climate Strategy & Responsible Banking, YES BANK who quoted from the McKinsey Global Institute report:  The power of parity: How advancing gender equality can add $12 trillion to global growth – “The economic potential of India’s women is not achievable without gender gaps in society being addressed”.

For the first time the event brought together women leaders from grassroots to corporates, to deliberate on following key topics:

The Leadership’ Role in Bridging the Gender Gap

This panel deliberated on issues of gender inequality and gender inclusion in enterprises. What emerged was that more than talk, action needs to be taken to resolve gender gap issues. As Shweta Munjal, Head of Corporate Affairs Asia Pacific, at Thompson Reuters, pointed out, her values and beliefs have been shaped by her leaders & managers, which has in turn, allowed her to trickle down the same, from her position. With leadership commitment, the impact will be greater than the status quo of addressing issues in silos. A very key point made by Deodutta Kurane, Group President, Human Capital Management, YES Bank: The leadership contribution to this cause is about sensitizing leaders: What is the gender difference? How do we leverage that gender difference for the benefit of the organization?

Shalaka Joshi Gender Lead from IFC spoke about – IFC’s work with clients and partners in the private sector to ensure that women-focused initiatives and reforms are part of wider employment efforts. This includes women’s entry into management, nomination to corporate boards, and training in financial skills.

Women in Sustainability and Climate Change

Two specific relationships exist between sustainability, climate, and women. First is an example set by women leaders such as Namita Vikas and Deeksha Vats who are at the helm of directing sustainability initiatives across their enterprises, and how they serve as an inspiration for many others to follow suit. The second perspective of this discussion was the effect of climate change on women and their importance in grass root level fight against climate change.

Inspirational leaders who have risen to the top in leading sustainability efforts across their operations clearly emphasize the role women can play in sustainability. Namita Vikas while highlighting the role women empowerment plays in ensuring holistic sustainable development said that “It’s the responsibility of women as well, not to hide under the garb of “being a woman. Sustainability has always faced a problem of acceptability, it ultimately comes to a top-down and bottom-up approach. It comes down to understanding what language to use. But being a woman does not make it difficult or easier”.

In response to the challenges in driving Sustainability & CSR and whether women deliver better results, Deeksha Vats, Joint President- Sustainability, Aditya Birla Group said, “What I believe sets a woman apart is the ability to be adaptable and less intimidating. So that makes conversations much (more) flexible and easier. Also, having empathy is crucial to having faith and working hard. It is all in our heads that we see things work differently. How we see the world is how we see ourselves.”

Climate change adds to women’s daily challenges in developing and less-developed countries in Asia, as in other regions. Naman Gupta from DFID, explained how climate action initiatives in India must involve women in their efforts to address climate change by developing more options for empowering women so that they can play a role during climate risks and building more climate resilient communities.

Women Leading Social Mobilization

 Leaders across sustainability have been leading initiatives aimed at enabling social mobilization and women empowerment. Using the influence and impact they have, leaders in sustainability have been looking at scalable social initiatives to create social change. Women empowerment and social mobilization initiatives like the great work done by CORO India, and Samhita Organization were discussed in this panel. Along with stalwarts like Sugandha Sukrutaraj of AMBA, and YES Foundation’s Prerana Lange, the discussion helped showcase and extract ideas, strategies, and approaches for other industry peers to follow suit. Social Mobilisation is an area where development objective is met through collaboration and dialogue. This area has seen many women leading various areas of social mobilization.

Undoubtedly, a great marker of how the panelists created impact is this quote that we led with, and kept going back to, by Prerana Lange, CEO, YES Foundation “What we are saying is that we teach the person how to love the water, so automatically he or she builds a boat and then learns how to fish.”


This version of S4B focused on the role women are playing in the area of sustainability, the platform encourages engagement, inclusiveness, and recognition of women in every sustainability role within the organizations they work in. The platform not only discussed primary issues such as gender inequality and women empowerment but also looked at how women leaders in sustainability have played important roles. The sessions included speakers engaging with the audience on topics such the role of women leaders in bridging the gender gap, women & climate change, and women leading social mobilization.

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