During a recent session at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Egypt, women food systems leaders advocated for centering gender equity to transform food and agriculture systems. The conversation was organized by Food Tank in partnership with the Food4Climate Pavilion.
“If we don’t empower and support women and finance women in food systems, not only will we not have a food systems transformation, but it won’t be inclusive,” says Katie McCoshan, International Engagement Coordinator for the Food and Land Use Coalition.
Many of the panelists argue that representation is key. “Who do we portray as experts and how do we do that?” asks Theresa Lieb, Senior Food Systems Analyst for GreenBiz. She argues that new articles and panel discussions provide opportunities for journalists and event organizers to be deliberate about who receives the spotlight.
Shannon Cosentino-Roush, Chief Strategy Officer for the plant-based food company Finless Foods agrees, noting that the media’s role can help develop a “presence” for women leaders. And not only can coverage increase attention on their work, but it can also help to ensure that they are selected for speaking opportunities, increasing representation at the conferences and events Lieb referred to.
Additionally, “you need to create space at the top for women leaders,” Cosentino-Roush says. She believes that women often bring different perspectives to a business, benefiting operations and helping a company succeed.
Building on this, Jennifer Stojkovic, author of The Future of Food is Female and Founder of the Vegan Women Summit (VWS), and author of The Future of Food is Female argues that gender inclusivity can help to mitigate or avoid crises, particularly when women foresee issues that men in decision-making roles may not.
Stojkovic says that she knows “half a dozen” women founders who were developing potential solutions to the infant formula shortage that hit the United States this year. “They were pitching solutions to that [issue] years ago saying ‘this is coming, this is coming, we’re on the brink of a catastrophe.’ But unfortunately, so many male investors didn’t think it was worth it.”
But the speakers also note that gender inclusivity goes far beyond inclusion in boardrooms or speaking opportunities. “[Gender equity] isn’t just one thing,” McCoshan says, “it’s part of everything.”
Industry and capitalism have “mowed down our trees and dammed up the rivers and killed the birds with solar power,” states Chief Caleen Sisk, a member of Winnemem Wintu Tribe who is a Spiritual Leader and Hereditary Chief. “And it continues to go…until women step up and say we’re going to go for zero degrees,” she says, referring to a goal of a 0 °C rise in average global temperatures compared to pre-industrial levels instead of the 1.5 °C target defined in the Paris Agreement. According to members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the latter target, while helping to prevent the worst climate crisis, will still lead to rising sea levels, an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, and more.
Women, particularly those in Indigenous communities around the world, have been working the land for generations and know what works, Sisk says. “Let’s give her a go at zero, let’s get back in the balance because if…we’re out of balance, we all know things are going to be bad for somebody, somewhere, and it might be us.”
Listen to the full conversation by clicking HERE.
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