Gender quotas increase the equality and effectiveness of climate policy interventions
Representation of women in decision making groups increases the likelihood that climate policy interventions will be effective and that the benefits of the interventions will be shared equally.
Recent research has investigated whether gender quotas (that is, policies requiring a certain amount of female representation) have an impact on the outcomes of decision-making processes. For example, gender-based quotas for political representation have been shown to be effective in challenging existing patrilineal political systems.
As the issue of climate changes rises to international attention, efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are increasingly focusing on the gender composition of the groups that participate in the decision-making. The governance of these common-pool natural resources, such as forests, occur primarily in communities and groups where women have limited influence and representation. Increasingly climate change interventions are requiring that villages have adequate female representation in their decision-making groups.
In this study, researchers investigated the impact of a gender quota requiring a 50% representation of women in the decision-making group on the effectiveness and equality of climate change interventions seeking to prevent the cutting down of trees in collectively managed forests in Indonesia, Peru and Tanzania.
Introducing gender quotas increase the likelihood that climate policy interventions will be effective and that the benefits of the interventions will be shared equally.
- Groups with gender quotas distributed the monetary reward of not cutting down trees more equally—often times perfectly equally—among its members, compared to groups without gender quotas.
- Whereas groups without gender quotas reduced their tree harvesting by 39% after implementing their climate change intervention, groups with gender quotas reduced their tree harvesting by 51% after implementing their climate change intervention.
Researchers attribute representation of women to increasing the effectiveness of climate change interventions to the possibly stronger inclination women have towards conservation and environmentalism or to women’s stronger inclination to be rule-following (and therefore not cut down as many trees once a climate change intervention has been implemented).
In this study, researchers investigated whether instituting gender quotas on decision-making groups would impact the equality and effectiveness of climate change interventions. They conducted a “lab-in-the-field” experiment in which 440 real forest users were randomly assigned to groups in which there would or would not be a gender quota requiring 50% of group members to be female. These 55 groups consisted of 8 participants each and occurred in 31 villages near collectively managed forests in Indonesia, Peru and Tanzania.
The researchers informed the participants was that an external organization would be making a payment to the group if they were able to not cut down any trees from the forest. They also told them that the monitoring would be imperfect and that the number of trees cut down would be counted per round (rather than per person). This created a situation that invited problems common to collectively managed natural resources such as free-riding and skewed distribution of intervention benefits.
In 28 of the groups, 50% of their members would be women. In 27 of the groups, representing the control groups, the number of women in the group was not controlled by the researchers, resulting in an average of 33% women members per group. This research methodology better approximated real-world conditions because real forest users were participants, rather than undergraduate research subjects. However, despite these efforts, the experiment still cannot perfectly capture the complexity of real-world forest users’ decisions. Furthermore, the study’s sample is not generalizable to how the gender quotas might be differently effective in different contexts around the world. Lastly, although the study manipulated the gender composition in the decision-making group of forest users, it did not have influence over the overall representation of women in that community’s local government, a potential important avenue for women to influence local decision-making.