Let’s Talk About Gender (and Climate Change), Baby.

Let’s Talk About Gender (and Climate Change), Baby.

I’ve made a life out of studying and working in the most doom-and-gloom topic in human history: climate change. While I may not be the most fun at parties, I believe that working toward a more sustainable and resilient future is my responsibility as a citizen of this earth.

I came to Bard because of the action-focused, interdisciplinary curriculum of the environmental policy program and for the opportunity to implement those learned skills in the real world through an extended internship. Because, let’s be honest, climate change is not a happy topic, in fact, it’s downright terrifying. But if Bard’s Center for Environmental Policy has taught me anything, it’s that I can’t just sit around and do nothing.

Should I stay or should I go… to D.C.?

Where does a young, enthusiastic Bard student go to make change happen? Washington, D.C., of course!

I had reservations about coming to D.C. Would tripping over red tape make me want to give up? Would I still be connected to the grassroots organizations I hold near and dear to my heart? Would I be another intern spending their summer filing papers and sorting mail?

However, when I interviewed with the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Global Gender Office I felt my worries melt away. I could tell that the office was committed to fostering progress; that, despite its international reach, it valued all partner organizations, big and small; and that I would be involved in meaningful and influential work.

I still felt nervous so I made a pros and cons list:


  • Happy hours around every corner
  • Free museums
  • Opportunities to meet some of the world’s most brilliant minds
  • Backyard is filled with American history.


  • Humidity

I resigned myself to the fact that I would be a sweat monster all summer and set off to D.C.

American history is only a train ride away


What’s gender got to do with it?

Now, I bet you’re wondering, “How are gender and climate change related? What gives?” I’m getting there. First, let me tell you a little about the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

International Union for Conservation of Nature

Founded in 1948 and with over 1,200 government and NGO members, the IUCN is the oldest and largest conservation organization in the world and is well known for its Red List of Threatened Species.

Focused on valuing and conserving nature through pragmatic solutions, the IUCN houses many programs and initiatives dedicated to developing laws, policies, and best practices for decision makers around the world.

The IUCN is headquartered in Switzerland but has offices in more than 45 countries. Washington, D.C. hosts one key office, which houses staff from major global programs such as the Global Forest and Climate Change Programmes, as well as the Global Gender Office (GGO).

The GGO is dedicated to integrating gender considerations into conservation, mitigation, adaptation, and resilience. With staff, consultants, and interns all over the world, the GGO is the biggest and most diverse gender team in any environmental organization.

Why is gender important to consider in climate change policy? Well, climate change impacts, like droughts, heat waves, superstorms, and floods, affect men and women differently. Poor people are especially vulnerable, and since numerous sources cite that 70% of the world’s poor are women, this means that these effects disproportionately impact women. This is compounded by the fact that as climate continues to change in unprecedented ways, activities like food production and water collection—activities most often left to women—will become more difficult.

However, this does not mean that women are only a vulnerable group that needs saving. On the contrary, women hold knowledge and skills that are important in forming inclusive and effective climate policy. Even so, lack of access to financial and capacity building resources means that women are often left out of the conversation.

This is where the GGO comes in: by ensuring that men and women are brought to the table and treated as equal partners in climate change strategies, we are helping to secure a better future for everyone.

Started from the basement in Albee now I’m here

Since starting work at the GGO, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some amazing folks and I’ve learned more about gender and climate change than I thought was possible. I’m even pulling some lessons from Bard into my work in the office.

Working with Bard CEP alum! Molly Gilligan class of 2015

My work has been focused on helping the team update a 2008 publication called the Training Manual on Gender and Climate Change. This includes revamping previous material with new research and case studies from all around the world. This process has helped me improve my researching skills, write concisely with detail, and efficiently collaborate on a team.

There is still so much to be done to address climate change issues. The first step is to ensure an inclusive and gender responsive approach to climate change. I’m excited to be a part of this work and can’t wait to see what is ahead.


  1. mollygilligan

    Thanks for sharing your perspectives of your time in DC and your experiences with the Global Gender Office, Emmett. You’ve been a strong asset to the team, and I love hearing how you are integrating the skills you honed during your first year at Bard CEP. I’m also thrilled that you are taking this opportunity to explore DC and take advantage of all that the city offers.

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