advancing womens leadership

Advancing Women’s Leadership in Sustainable Economies: Reflections from the Catalyzing Women’s Leadership in the Green and Blue Economy Event

Written by: Linda Quamar, Communications Manager,

Women play a vital role in shaping sustainable development, particularly in the green and blue economies. The intersection of environmental sustainability and gender equality has been a focal point for many initiatives worldwide. One such initiative, the Catalyzing Women’s Leadership in the Green and Blue Economy panel discussion, held virtually on March 5, 2024, served as a platform for dialogue, collaboration, and action toward supporting women’s empowerment in these crucial sectors.

Hosted by Counterpart International and co-sponsored by EnCompass LLC, Chemonics International, and the Saudat Salami Foundation of Nigeria, the event drew over 100 participants and illuminated the rich tapestry of pathways toward closing gender gaps, promoting environmental sustainability, and advancing economic prosperity. Experts from the White House Gender Policy Council, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the U.S. Department of State Office of Global Women’s Issues shared insights gleaned from U.S. government–funded initiatives and programs. Civil society and business leaders from Asia, Africa, and Latin America shared stories about women-led climate-smart economic initiatives and what they have learned is necessary to support more equitable partnerships and inclusive co-design processes with global women-led NGOs and businesses.

Understanding the Green and Blue Economy

The green and blue economies are interrelated, but each has distinct features, and together they are key to sustainable economic development. Counterpart’s Vice President of Women’s Empowerment, Camille Richardson, provided foundational definitions, including that a “green economy” is low carbon, resource efficient, and socially inclusive, promoting sustainability through renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, and eco-tourism. A “blue economy,” on the other hand, focuses on the sustainable use of ocean resources, including fisheries, marine transportation, and coastal tourism.

Fostering Collaboration for Change

The Catalyzing Women’s Leadership in the Green and Blue Economy event served as a convergence point for diverse voices and perspectives, reflecting a shared commitment to mobilizing women’s leadership in environmental sectors. Participants including policymakers, practitioners, activists, and entrepreneurs exchanged ideas, insights, and innovative solutions aimed at driving positive change. Collaboration is particularly important for amplifying efforts, given the enormity of the climate change crisis. Rachel Vogelstein, Deputy Director of the White House Gender Policy Council, emphasized the important role of women in sustainable industries. According to Vogelstein, women’s participation “will be so critical to the economic growth and the health and future of our planet – fields like solar and wind, ocean conservation, recycling and waste management – their participation in these industries will help fuel progress.”

The Deputy Director warned, however, that if current trends don’t change women will only hold 25% of the 67 million new green economy jobs anticipated by 2030. She reemphasized the importance of the Biden-Harris administration’s Women in the Sustainable Economy (WISE) Initiative, which aims to decrease gender gaps by increasing women’s access to green and blue jobs, training, and leadership opportunities.  As part of the WISE initiative, she also highlighted the importance of the USAID Climate Gender Equity Fund (CGEF) to support greater financing for women’s green and blue economic initiatives.

Corinne Hart, Senior Gender Advisor and Team Lead for Energy, Environment, and Climate within USAID’s Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Hub, further spoke of the importance of CGEF and programs like USAID’s Engendering Industries, which supports companies to increase workforce gender equality in male-dominated sectors worldwide. She also spoke passionately about the agency’s commitment to embed gender integration across all its climate work. She emphasized how USAID is funding gender-responsive climate programs at a rapid rate today, having invested $120 million dollars over the last few years on this important nexus.

Thilma Komaling and Saudat Salami, alumni of Counterpart’s Global Women In Management program, and women leaders from the USDA Food for Progress Guatemala project and the women in STEM incubator and accelerator program WomHub shared their personal leadership journeys into the green and blue economies, including insights from their work in industries ranging from sustainable tuna and coffee to the energy sector. The speakers emphasized the importance of recognizing and addressing the impact of gender-based violence across these sectors, as well as skills-building at all levels of the value chain, highlighting role models, and building pipelines of future women leaders.

Amplifying Women’s Voices

Throughout the day, interactive panel discussions underscored women’s pivotal role in shaping sustainable development agendas. Participants explored the intersectionality of gender and environmental issues, recognizing the unique contributions of and challenges faced by women in all their diversity—including members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) community; women and girls of every age, caste, race or ethnic origin, religion, or belief; and women and girls with disabilities. For example, women and girls are disproportionately affected by climate change, but those with disabilities are impacted at even greater levels. Their experiences and perspectives offer valuable insights for addressing existing disparities and bringing about change. Saudat Salami, founder of the Saudat Salami Foundation in Nigeria, noted that “It’s not just about getting women in the workplace. We need to make sure the workplace environment is inclusive in all ways.”

The Path Forward: Empowering Women for a Sustainable Future

The event served as an impetus for transformative change, contributing to a ripple effect of inspiration and innovation across environmental sectors. Speakers discussed practical and specific ways to amplify diverse women’s voices and access in climate investment spaces, dismantle barriers that limit women’s leadership in male-dominated green and blue industries, and foster more inclusive partnerships with global women’s organizations and businesses to better implement women’s solutions in the journey toward sustainability.

As we commemorate Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day (March 8), we will continue to champion diverse women’s leadership in sustainable economies. We invite you to join the conversation in social media by tagging EnCompass LLC, Counterpart International, Chemonics and Saudat Salami Foundation, and sharing your ideas on how to build a more resilient, gender equitable and sustainable world in which diverse women are co-leading green and blue economic solutions.

To learn more about our work, please visit our Gender and Inclusive Development page.


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