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Rio de Janiero

The Sustainability of “Feminine” Thinking : Women Leaders' Summit on the Future Women Want


Prominent women leaders, gathered at the Rio+20 side event on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, have branded the predominant women empowerment mechanisms, operating mainly through aid programs, as anachronistic. Refusing to be seen as yet another vulnerable group, women insist on being part of the decision-making process. 

The question of female participation in sustainable decision making, defined by geopolitical circumstances, but universal in the lack of cohesive framework, has been addressed at Rio+20 Summit through several panel discussions. The main issues addressed by the participants were strongly related to implementation gaps, acceleration of the processes of women empowerment, and the need to treat it as a cross-cutting issue. Three goals have been set, all seeking to integrate gender equality into the green economy. Social, economic and environmental dimensions are recognized as the sine qua non of the future development framework that must be “gender-responsive”. 

Mary Robinson, former President of the Republic of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has pointed out the much underestimated issue of behavioral patterns in which women in power succumb to the pressures of their pioneering role as female leaders. “In a predominantly male political arena, women don’t want to be the only ones talking about gender”, stated Robinson. This assimilation is closely related to the negative interpretation of “female thinking”. The empathic/nurturing and the rational/competitive are often juxtaposed, setting gender-based stereotypes as practical obstacles to gender inclusion. 

The Study on Climate Belief, published in late 2010 by Michigan State University sociologist Aaron M. McCright, showed that women are more likely to accept climate change science than men. Numbers show that a larger percentage of women worry about global warming (35 percent to 29 percent), believe global warming will threaten their way of life during their lifetime (37 percent to 28 percent), and believe the seriousness of global warming is underestimated in the news (35 percent to 28 percent). 

Following on that, the First Lady of El Salvador and one of the panelists, Vanda Pignato commented on San Salvador’s new initiative called Ciudad Mujer – or Women City – which aims to provide women with healthcare services, while empowering them politically, economically, and socially. “My husband is now referred to as the man who is married to me,” said Pignato. 

The Women Leaders' Summit discussions accentuated the important role that women play in creating and transitioning to greener and sustainable economies. Enabling women to become more visible in public policy is regarded as the crucial move towards sustainability.