International Women’s Day | POC spotlights Inspiring Women in Sustainability

an animated group of women characters stand in solidarity making heart shapes with their hands to signify inspiring inclusion.

International Women’s Day | POC spotlights Inspiring Women in Sustainability

This year’s International Women’s Day (taking place officially on Friday, March 8th) is encouraging us all to Inspire Inclusion. 

Across industry, latest figures within the scope of Diversity and Inclusion make for some interesting reading. Sure, they’ve been worse and while it’s true that, as companies embrace developments across their own ESG strategies, inclusionary operations are very much on the rise, it remains that our industries are still plagued by gender inequity and imbalances in various guises.

Let’s put it into a few contexts that we may be best familiar with. We work within brands, and for a large portion of us, that means Character and Entertainment. New findings from the latest report by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media has revealed that, despite the overwhelming demand for more on-screen representation from young women aged 11 to 24, male STEM characters continue to outnumber their female counterparts.

In fact, (and according to the new study, Portray Her 2.0, An Analysis of 15 Years of Women in STEM On-Screen) in the years between 2007 and 2022, the number of STEM roles portrayed by women has increased by exactly 1%, from 37% between 2007 to 2017, to 38% between 2018 and 2022.

Bridging the gender gap

The good news is that within that 1%, the variety of STEM roles and diversity of ethnicity is on the increase. From 2018 to 2022, STEM characters of colour increased to 42% of all STEM roles, compared to 29% in 2007 to 2017; while within the same period, women characters began to take on more diverse STEM roles. For example, female characters shown as engineers increased from just 2% in 2018 to 13% by 2022 while those depicted as computer scientists or programmers grew from 7% to 15%.

“When children turn on their screens, the characters they see – or don’t see – send a powerful message about who matters and who doesn’t, and about what is considered possible and what is not,” said Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute.

“As members of the entertainment industry, we have the opportunity to move past our longstanding default ideas about who should fill a STEM character role – and motivate more girls and women to emerge as future STEM leaders and pioneers.”

There are brands working hard to drive the conversation around diversity, inclusion, and gender equality, of course. Last year, Mattel celebrated the fifth year of its Barbie Dream Gap Project, a campaign launched to help reverse the self-limiting beliefs in girls as young as five. Working in partnership with the New York University, Mattel research has found that while challenges today lie less frequently in self-confidence or drive among young girls, it is now rather outside stereotypes and biases that still affect their future choices.

The Barbie Dream Gap Project is therefore a global mission dedicated to closing the gap by challenging gender stereotypes and helping to undo the biases “that hold girls back from reaching their full potential.”

Nowhere is that more prevalent than in the world of business right now. And perhaps shockingly, it’s happening right on our own turf, directly impacting women working in the business sector. 

The green economy’s glass ceiling

On January 31st this year, a new law came into force increasing the income threshold for angel investors in business from £100,000 to £170,000 resulting in a dramatic decline in the number of people who would now qualify. Given the well-documented inequality in pay between men and women in the business sector, it comes as no surprise that those left feeling the greatest impact of this threshold change are women investors.

According to statistics from, a campaign to reverse the law, of the 15.66 million women working in the UK, only 76,500 (0.0048%) would meet the new threshold.

If you’re wondering why this might be such an issue, let’s look at the business landscape today. These new laws will have an extreme and disproportionate dampening effect on the ability of female entrepreneurs to raise capital and to start and grow their businesses. Why? Because female investors are twice as likely to back female-led start-ups as male investors.

“The new threshold will prevent women from investing in women and further entrench the gender inequity that blights British enterprise from the Board level to the factory floor,” reads part of an open letter written to the British government by the team at

“Women, people from ethnic minorities, and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds (proxied by education) are significantly less likely to receive venture capital investment compared to their male or white counterparts, or those that went to ‘elite’ universities.”

Businesses with all-female founders received only 2% of venture capital funding in 2021, while only 0.14% went to black women-led businesses between 2013 and 2021.

It’s estimated that £250 billion could be added to the UK economy if as many women in the UK started and scaled businesses as men. But, this is only possible with the support of more female investors.

This becomes a major problem not only for gender equality but for environmental sustainability too. It’s according to a Global Entrepreneurship Monitor study conducted in 2023 that women-owned businesses “are more likely than male-owned businesses to prioritise social and environmental goals.” It goes on to highlight that women-entrepreneurs are more likely, for example, to start businesses in healthcare, education, and renewable energy. Of course, there’s a can of worms just waiting to be opened as to why this is (as well as a good number of male-owned businesses operating successfully in the sustainability space), but if we take the research at face value it becomes a concerning fact that we are stymieing the growth of the green economy through lack of equality and accessibility.

The gulf in global green skills

And that’s not just in terms of entrepreneurship. Career opportunities within the UK’s net zero economy grew by 9% in 2023, yet within its technology and engineering sectors only 20% of its roles are filled by women. We are at a point where the green jobs market is rapidly outpacing the skilled workforce to fill it. The World Economic Forum estimates that globally, more than one million solar workers will be needed by 2030 to meet higher renewable energy targets. By 2026, it’s estimated that on a global level 568,800 wind technicians will be needed to install, operate, and maintain the growing fleet of global onshore and offshore wind turbines.

Yet there remains a gulf between the growth of the green jobs market and the skilled workforce ready to fill it. And this all brings us back to issues around representation and inclusion in the early and most formative years of young women’s lives as highlighted by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.

Nicole Small, co-founder of IF/THEN, a research partner on Geena Davis Institute’s latest analysis, said: “We are firm believers that science is the key to solving most of our world’s problems, and ensuring women have an equal opportunity to succeed in STEM fields is a vital piece of the solution.

“I hope this latest report will demonstrate there is work to be done to balance the representation of women in STEM careers to further a culture shift inspiring young girls to explore these professions.”

Women in sustainability

Playing its part in driving awareness of and the conversation around women in sustainability, this month, Products of Change will be highlighting some of our industry’s very own inspiring individuals helping to advance the sector’s pathway towards sustainable development. Over the course of the next few weeks, we will be shining our spotlight on individuals from BBC Studios, Black Lives Matter Licensing Movement, Tesco, Danilo, Pure Table Top, Talking Tables, and more through a series of interviews designed to encourage and inspire inclusion, while showcasing some of the amazing work being carried out by the extraordinary talent within our Products of Change community.

So, don’t miss out. Stay tuned. And remember to get in touch if you’ve got a story of sustainable development that you’re ready to share.

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