The Role of Women in Shaping Climate Policy: An Empirical Analysis



My research delves into the intersection of female representation in international political bodies and its impact on environmental policy, particularly in the context of climate negotiations. Despite the critical role of women’s participation in shaping sustainable policy, this aspect remains largely unexplored in existing literature. Drawing from theories such as critical mass and in-group dynamics, I propose that an increase in the number of women involved in climate negotiations leads to a heightened consideration of the gendered impacts of environmental policies. To substantiate this argument, I conducted empirical analyses using newly amalgamated data. Employing a two-sample t-test and linear regressions, I sought to assess the relationship between female participation in climate negotiations and the inclusion of gender-related considerations in resulting policy decisions. Both statistical methods revealed a statistically significant and positive correlation between the presence of women in these negotiations and an increased mention of gender in climate policy discussions. These findings underscore the influence of female representation on the substantive content and objectives of climate change initiatives. By amplifying the focus on gendered impacts within environmental policy, the inclusion of women in decision-making processes enhances the comprehensiveness and effectiveness of climate responses. In conclusion, my research underscores the transformative role of women in shaping climate policies, emphasizing the need for greater gender diversity in international political bodies engaged in environmental negotiations. As we strive for more inclusive and equitable approaches to addressing climate change, recognizing and leveraging the insights brought forth by diverse perspectives, including those of women, is paramount.


Women constitute an estimated 80% of all global climate change refugees. When women are displaced, they are placed at a higher risk of experiencing gender based violence, human trafficking, and forced marriage1. Particularly in developing countries, women bear the primary responsibility of ensuring food and water security, establishing agriculture as a crucial sector. As the consequences of climate change manifest through natural disasters, women experience threats to their livelihoods, security, and health2. These adversities have a direct impact on the next generation of young women, as they forgo their education to assist their mothers and cope with environmental challenges3. Women consistently exhibit higher levels of concern for climate change in comparison to men, demonstrating the importance of gendered perspectives in mitigation efforts4. The gendered impacts of climate change emphasize the inability of unilateral methods  to sustainably address climate change; approaches that take into account the specific vulnerabilities of women are needed. This paper considers how increasing female representation in international political bodies impacts the content and objectives of environmental policy.

I argue that where women exert influence in international climate negotiations, more attention will be given to gender specific concerns. My theory emphasizes women’s meaningful participation in climate negotiations, asserting that simply including women is not enough to shape policy. I draw on Critical Mass Theory to assert that women have a more substantial impact on climate change when they comprise a significant portion of international climate delegations5. Indeed, studies have shown that a higher number of women in decision making bodies can account for stronger importance and attention given to women’s issues, ensuring more accountability for the gendered impacts of issues like climate change6.  I therefore argue that increasing the proportion of women delegates at international climate conferences will increase attention to gender in climate policies. Moreover, I theorize that appointing women to leadership roles at climate conferences is also crucial towards creating policies that acknowledge gendered impacts. I test this  argument using linear regression models and a two-sample t-test for the difference between two means.  I leverage existing data on the gender composition of delegations to international climate conferences from 2008-2023 and gender mandates in international climate policy. This data was provided by the Women Environment and Development Organization which included data on the number of women present at and the number of female heads of delegations from UN climate processes. Using the data, I conducted an empirical analysis to test the following hypotheses: the implementation of the Gender Action Plan  will increase the number of gender mentions, increasing the number of female delegates will increase the number of gender mentions, and increasing female leadership roles at climate negotiations will increase the number of gender mentions.

The t-test examines the difference in the mean number of gender mandates at conferences before and after the Gender Action Plan was implemented7. It resulted in statistically significant results, proving that as the number of women represented increases in climate negotiations, the mentions of gender also increase. Moreover, the linear regression models also showed statistically significant evidence that as the number of female leaders present in climate conferences increases, so does the number of gender mandates. Therefore, the presence of women does influence the contents and objectives of climate change, increasing the focus on gendered impacts. The role of women as leaders in climate conferences is also crucial towards creating policies that acknowledge gendered impacts.

My research is critical to the creation of climate policy because it highlights the need for intersectional approaches that increase female representation. The risk of forced marriage, human trafficking, and gender-based violence are likely to increase as a result of climate migrations, necessitating government intervention to safeguard their rights and well-being8. The awareness that women suffer the effects of climate change differently than males underline the need for policies encouraging gender equality and long-lasting resilience. My research shows how more women participating in decision-making processes can result in comprehensive and responsible policy responses. My findings support the need for legislation to promote women’s participation in determining climate policy through international political organizations. This will facilitate the incorporation of gender-sensitive concepts and enable attention to the gendered dimensions of climate change, enabling the development of more practical and just climate adaptation strategies.

This literature review builds on three  strands of  existing literature – the role of women in decision making, policy outcomes, and the gendered impacts of climate change–while highlighting what aspects of the issue are overlooked by existing studies.

Literature Review

Gendered Impacts of Climate Change

Climate change is an issue that affects men, women, and marginalized people differently. Women are oftentimes more reliant on the natural environment for their work, especially in developing nations. Therefore, they have a unique perspective on issues such as global warming and may feel a higher sense of urgency to address it. Since environmental issues have a larger impact on communities that already face marginalization and social inequality, including women in these discussions can help lessen the gendered impacts that women may face disproportionately to men. According to an article by experts in climate and gender Sophia Huyer, Mariola Acosta, Tatiana Gumucio, and Jasmin Irisha Jim Ilham, past climate discussions have been primarily male dominated and the opinions and voices of women on these issues have been overlooked9 The authors suggest that in wealthier countries, women are more concerned about climate change than men are, suggesting that women would have a different opinion on environmental policy efforts. The article states that the gender gap in climate change advocacy is a result of women’s roles in society; women are more likely to support solutions that consider human and family impact because they perceive a greater threat than men do.

Existing research proposes the theory that as the level of development improves in a nation, the perceived benefit of climate change mitigating actions tends to decrease. Men, more than women, will tend to more heavily focus on perceived higher costs of climate mitigation. As men and women weigh these economic costs and benefits differently, a gendered gap grows in efforts to combat climate change at national and international scale10. Studies have also shown that men are more involved in the cultivation of cash crops, meaning that as crops fail due to climate change, they may endure temporary loss of wages or migrate to new areas in search of other work. When husbands move away in search of new work, wives often become the heads of the households, and children are forced to drop out of school. This highlights how women and children are forced to confront climate change in a more nuanced way11.

As women face disproportionate effects of climate change, they have a stronger urgency to implement mitigation efforts. However, there has been little to no work done on investigating how the inclusion of women in international efforts affects the content and objectives of environmental policy. With my research, I hope to bridge the gap in the understanding of these two sectors. Based on existing information, it can be hypothesized that including more women in these conversations on an international level will result in further emphasis on gendered and humanitarian impacts of climate change mitigation, and perhaps less so on financial concerns. The motivation of my research can be summed up by Matcha Phorn-In, environmental and women’s rights activist, as she states “If you are invisible in everyday life, your needs will not be thought of, let alone addressed, in a crisis situation12.” Including women has become more than just a means of equity, but about the real threats that occur when the voices of women are overlooked. My research aims to highlight the importance of inclusive international climate discussions that not only address the unique vulnerabilities faced by women but also harness the positive influence of women’s perspectives in shaping policies that prioritize both gender equality and comprehensive societal well-being. This is done by acknowledging the gendered impacts of climate change and understanding women’s unique decision-making approaches, and how female approaches can lead to stronger outcomes.

Women’s Importance in Decision Making

This research contributes to ongoing discussions of the unique role that women play in decision making processes on corporate and national levels13,14. Previous research has shown that increasing the number of women in decision making positions in the public sector increases effectiveness and accountability. Including more women in such positions of power has far reaching positive impacts for not only other women, but society as a whole15. This development has been especially observed in terms of Covid-19 response. Countries such as Germany, New Zealand, Denmark, Taiwan, and Finland are all led by women and have a significant number of women in positions of power and they are also the countries which reacted to the Covid 19 pandemic in the most proactive and coordinated way. In most cases, female lead countries had lock down protocols implemented earlier and had half as many Covid related deaths as countries led by men. Women were able to see farther than just the economic consequences, and considered the societal benefits that lock down protocols would create16.

Studies on corporate environments have also shown that firms with high female participation in decision-making positions have higher quality Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) performance. This finding extends the overarching discussion by evidencing how increasing women’s participation is not only important because of differences in decision making styles, but also because of the positive influence that these decisions have on society17Studies have also supported that the inclusion of women in decision making roles has resulted in improved community outcomes. 

Women take more holistic approaches that also take into account humanitarian and societal impacts of their decision. Women experience the impacts of climate change in a more severe manner, because of the increased risks of forgoing education, sexual violence, and forced marriage; therefore, this issue is not one that can be approached unilaterally18. Evidence shows that including women in political decision-making improves results19.  A 2004 case study conducted by Raghabendra Chattopadhyay and Esther Duflo illustrated this with  panchayats (local councils) in India. Communities that included  female leadership developed drinking water projects at a rate that was 62% higher than those led by me20. In addition to highlighting the significant role that women play in decision-making, my research goes beyond this to show how their inclusion and unique voices results in more solid policy outcomes.

Women and Stronger Policy Outcomes

Within the sphere of women’s participation in international relations, much of the literature surrounds peace keeping policy and practices. I will use these arguments as an illustrative example of why the inclusion of women results in stronger policy. Studies have shown that countries with higher rates of gender equality are less likely to use violent approaches when dealing with disputes. On the other hand, nations with lower levels of gender equality are more likely to be involved with both national and international conflict21.

There is also evidence that supports that the involvement of women in conflict resolution improves outcomes. According to an article by Work Bank consultant and gender and youth specialist Catalina Crespo-Sancho, when women are involved in the policy efforts of creating peace agreements, the probability of an agreement lasting for at least two years by 20% and the probability of lasting 15 years by 35%22. This underscores the importance of women’s participation in politics to broadening the agendas that are addressed. Women have been found to raise awareness towards current social issues when negotiating policies. Evidence has also shown that women are more likely to consider policy impacts beyond military action and territorial gains23.

Social identity theory also comes into play when addressing how women take into account gendered impacts when creating policy24. For example, in Colombia female policymakers were able to include provisions that take into account the experiences and rights of rural and indigenous women in national level agreements, advancing female political participation and taking action against gender-based violence and sexual violence25.

International security literature has also made clear the correlation between having women involved in policy focused peace discussions and the attainment of sustainable peace. The research suggests that the inclusion of women improves the content and outcomes of peace accords, a suggested reason for this is that women implement more provisions and clauses that directly address socio political issues that arise. Female peace negotiators also bring in local and context specific perspectives that are essential to durable peace agreements across diverse societies26.

The argument that women contribute to stronger policy outcomes has been significantly developed around the idea of peacekeeping and sustainable peace. This ultimately lays the foundation for the argument that women are crucial to include in the creation of legislation. However, the particular importance of women’s participation in climate negotiations to create stronger, more nuanced policies that account for crucial gendered impacts is overlooked. My study will address this gap by building on established understandings of gendered impacts of climate change, female representation, and policy outcomes as I explore the impact that increasing female representation has on environmental policy.


 My research posits that as more women are included in environmental processes, such as the Conference of the Parties (COP) and the Bonn Conference, the specific mentions of gendered impacts in environmental policy will increase in a direct manner. I argue that gender shapes policy preferences in ways that make women more attentive to the gendered impacts of climate change. As a result, when women exert meaningful influence in international climate negotiations, they will advocate for the recognition of these gendered impacts. I argue that women exert meaningful influence in two ways: by forming a `critical mass’ and by holding leadership positions.

In-group theory suggests that groups have a tendency to judge and treat people who are similar to them in a better manner than those who are different from the majority. This is known as the in-group/out-group phenomena27. Within the context of this study, In-group theory suggests that women often have a tendency to support and advocate for legislation that takes into account gendered implications of policy, including climate change policy. Conversely, men are often less empathetic towards the issues faced particularly by women, and give less attention if any to how women are impacted differently from men when environmental degradation occurs. Therefore, I argue that women delegates to climate change negotiations will be more likely to take the impacts of climate change on the entire female population into account, a favorable outcome for their “in-group.” In the context of this research, the group identity that women have creates a sense of responsibility to address the gendered impacts of climate change. The indirect impacts of climate change, such as increased levels of sexual violence, child trafficking, domestic abuse, and forced marriage, affect women far more than men28. Therefore, women will consider these impacts more deeply when they create policies to combat the direct impacts of climate change. Women are crucial to the implementation of sustainable policy changes that result in improved results for their local communities.

However, even with the inclusion of women in decision making spaces, the consideration and preference that female members have don’t necessarily translate into influential policy changes. I argue that women can increase their influence in two ways, by forming a critical mass and by pursuing leadership opportunities.

Critical mass theory argues that women (or another identity group) have to reach a “critical mass” before their representation has an influence. It’s not enough for there to be a few “token” women.  The importance of a “critical mass” is summed up by Mother Teresa; “I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples, but I alone cannot change the world.” Women and their opinions have more power in numbers. Critical mass theory applied to the context of this research would conclude that simply increasing the substantive representation of women in climate conferences would have a significant effect on the number of gender mandates that are produced from each conference29 When more women are present at such conferences, their collective opinions regarding the gendered impacts of climate change would receive more attention as the discussion receives a greater platform. This would ultimately result in more gender attentive policies in the form of gender mandates and references within the decisions of climate conferences. 

A study conducted by researchers at Vanderbilt University addressed the lack of literature on the behavioral difference between men and women on their legislative outcomes.  To address this, the study examined public bills presented by men and women in the U.S. House of Representatives for the 93rd through 110th Congresses (1973-2008)30. The study discovered circumstances in which women are more effective lawmakers than their male counterparts, which is consistent with their adoption of legislative methods such as high effort, consensus building, and topic specialization. The study specifically discovered that minority party women are more likely than minority party men to keep their sponsored measures alive through later stages of the legislative process. Majority party women did not have the same success, and they made up for this by presenting a larger number and a wider variety of laws. These findings are especially evident in the fields of women’s issues, where both women from minority and majority parties invest more time and energy.

Even with a “minimum threshold” of women being reached, the degree of influence that women hold in policy making is also critical to the implementation of mandates that will affect the gendered impacts of climate change. Research conducted in 1992, titled “Gender and the evaluation of leaders: A meta-analysis”, found that female leaders are more likely to  exhibit transformative leadership approaches. In comparison to males, they are more likely to embody the best aspects of an organization and motivate others to support its objective31. The analysis drew on 61 studies32. When a minority group makes up less than 15% of the total, it is considered superficial and is frequently included essentially for diversity33. Less women participating in climate negotiations would theoretically result in fewer gender mandates,  underscoring the negative effects of tokenism. To counteract tokenism, however, women’s impact grows when they take on leadership positions, highlighting the necessity of both greater representation and leadership.

My research posits that as more women actively participate in environmental processes, the influence on policy arises through a nuanced interplay of critical mass theory and in-group dynamics. Critical mass theory argues that the substantive representation of women in decision-making spaces is crucial for their impact to be felt. When women reach a critical mass in such conferences, their collective opinions regarding the gendered impacts of climate change gain prominence. This amplification occurs as the discussion receives a greater platform, resulting in more gender-attentive policies, including gender mandates and references within the decisions of climate conferences.

In-group theory further reinforces this influence, highlighting that women, as an in-group, often demonstrate greater empathy and advocacy for legislation that addresses the gendered implications of policies, especially in the context of climate change. This group identity creates a sense of responsibility among women delegates to address the broader impacts of climate change on the female population, including issues such as sexual violence, child trafficking, domestic abuse, and forced marriage, which disproportionately affect women.

This transformative leadership, particularly in the field of climate negotiations, ensures that policies are not only inclusive but also effectively implemented. In essence, both the critical mass of women and their leadership roles synergize to counteract tokenism and underscore the necessity for both greater representation and leadership to bring about meaningful and lasting changes in climate policy.

Based on this research, I derive and test the following hypotheses using three different measures:of women’s participation in climate negotiations.

H1: Efforts to increase women’s participation in international climate negotiations––measured as the presence of the Gender Action Plan–– will increase the number of gender mentions.

H2: Increased female representation in climate negotiations––measured as the proportion of female delegates–– will increase the number of gender mentions.

H3: Increased female leadership in climate negotiations––measured as the proportion of female heads of delegation–– will increase the number of gender mentions.

Data & Measures

Independent Variables

In my analysis, I use three measures of women’s inclusion in international climate conferences: the proportion of women delegates, the proportion of female heads of delegation, and a binary measure indicating whether the Gender Action Plan (GAP) was implemented at each conference. The proportion of women delegates and the proportion of female heads of delegation variables are drawn from the Women’s Environment and Development Organization’s Gender Climate Tracker (GCT)34. The Gender Climate Tracker included variables for delegation totals, number of female delegates, and number of female heads of delegation at each climate conference between 2008 and 2023. From this data, I constructed two of my independent variables: the proportion of women delegates, which measures the proportion of women delegates at each conference and the proportion of female heads of delegation at each conference. Additionally, I included an independent variable of whether or not the GAP was implemented during each conference, a value of zero indicated was used for conferences that took place in 2017 and prior, before the GAP was implemented, and a value of one indicated that it had been implemented for later conferences.

Outcome Variable

To collect data on the outcome variable, the UNFCC’s Decisions Catalog was used to track the number of gender mentions, included through a keyword search of the terms “gender”, “female(s)”, “women”, “woman”, and “girl(s)”. I counted the frequency at which each term appeared throughout the respective climate conference’s documents, and created a column for this in my data table. This was the method used for all of the Bonn and Climate Change Conferences. For the COP sessions, the “Gender Mandates in Climate Policy” from WEDO’s Gender Climate Tracker was used to track mentions of gender in each conference.


A gender mention is operationally defined as any explicit reference to gender-related issues, concerns, or considerations within the official documents and outcomes of climate conferences. This includes, but is not limited to, language addressing the differential impacts of climate change on individuals of different genders, discussions on gender-responsive adaptation and mitigation strategies, and any explicit policy recommendations or mandates related to gender equality and the empowerment of women. In order to code the data, I created a spreadsheet and went into each document, finding all gender mentions and keeping a count. For instance, this excerpt from an official COP 27 document counts as one gender mention towards that conference: “Encourages Parties to increase the full, meaningful and equal participation of women in climate action and to ensure gender-responsive implementation and means of implementation, including by fully implementing the Lima work programme on gender and its gender action plan, to raise climate ambition and achieve climate goals.”

I decided to conduct two tests using the data provided to me from WEDO, a two-sample t-test as well as an ordinal linear regression. Together, these methods contribute to a comprehensive exploration of the impact of the GAP on gender dynamics within climate conferences, providing a nuanced understanding of the correlation between policy initiatives and the representation of women in key roles.

The two-sample t-test is utilized to compare the mean number of gender mandates before and after the implementation of the GAP (2008-2017 vs. 2018-2023). This test aims to discern whether there is a statistically significant difference in the prevalence of gender mandates in these two periods, providing insights into the effectiveness of the GAP in influencing gender-responsive policies in climate conferences.

Ordinal logistic regression models become the method of choice to further delve into the nuanced relationship between the number of gender mandates and the proportion of female delegates, as well as female head delegates. By restricting the analysis to the years preceding the GAP (2008-2017), we aim to uncover the correlation between the number of gender mandates and the representation of women in leadership roles. These models offer a robust framework for understanding the ordinal nature of our outcome variable, the gender mandates.

This study leverages exclusively publicly available and anonymized data. I avoided the inclusion of personal identifiers or sensitive information related to individual women delegates. The decision to focus solely on publicly accessible documents, coupled with a thorough anonymization process, addresses concerns associated with data privacy and confidentiality. Consultations with the WEDO team further reinforced a thoughtful and considerate approach to the ethical dimensions of the research process.

Two Sample T Test

The steps taken to complete the Two Sample T Test are as follows: I first compiled a list of the gender mandates in the years before the GAP was implemented and the number of gender mandates in the years after. After computing each set’s mean, I conducted a two-sample t test for the difference between the mean number of gender mandates included in conferences before and after. The GAP states five priority areas that were created to advance understanding of gender-responsiveness, one of which is increasing women’s leadership and representation in climate conferences. Therefore, it can be inferred that there were more women participating in climate conferences after the GAP was implemented (2018-2023) than before it was implemented (2008-2017). I created a data set with the number of genders mandates each year before the GAP was implemented and the number of gender mandates after.  I then took the mean number of mentions before and after as well as the sample sizes and standard errors to perform my test, with the assumption that Mbefore < Mafter. The test was conducted at an alpha level of 0.05, as this is the standard level of statistical significance.

Ordinal Logistic Regression

To test Hypotheses 2 and 3, I rely on ordinal logistic regression models. Ordinal logistic regression models are the appropriate modeling choice because my outcome variable, gender mandates, is an ordinal variable, therefore it is more appropriate than a linear, logit, or probit model.  The steps taken to complete the Ordinal Logistic Regression are as follows: to test Hypothesis 2, I regress the proportion of female delegates on the number of gender mandates. To test Hypothesis 3, I regress the proportion of female head delegates on the number of gender mandates. In this analysis, I only include years before the gender action plan was in place (2008-2017) because after the gender action plan, there is very minimal variation in the proportion of female delegates and heads of delegation. This resulted in a sample size of 35.

Results and Analysis

Two Sample T Test

H1: Efforts to increase women’s participation in international climate negotiations––measured as the presence of the Gender Action Plan–– will increase the number of gender mentions.

Table 1: Difference in Mean Number of Gender Mentions Before and After GAP

GroupMeanStandard Deviation (SD)Standard Error of the Mean (SEM)Sample Size (N)
Before Gender Action Plan5.86006.67001.127435
After Gender Action Plan11.56008.47002.82339

The test resulted in the following: df = 10.69, t = -1.875, and p = 0.0442. The p value is less than the alpha level of 0.05 , meaning that we reject the null hypothesis that the mean number of gender mentions are the same before and after the implementation of the GAP. There is statistically significant evidence that proves that efforts to increase female representation in climate negotiations will increase the number of gender mentions. The GAP’s  Priority Area B mentions the following: Gender Balance, Participation & Women’s Leadership. One goal of the plan was to increase the participation of women in UNFCCC climate negotiations, so the substantive participation of women is higher after the plan was implemented. Therefore, this leads to the implementation of more gender mandates and mentions. Additionally, based on a my follow up confidence interval, I am 95% confident that the true difference in number of gender mentions implemented before and after the implementation of the GAP falls between the interval from 0.3838 to 11.0162, confirming that there is an increase in gender mentions when more women become involved.

Ordinal Logistic Regression

Table 2: Effect of the Proportion of Female Delegates on Gender Mandates

Outcome    Lowest Value of Female Delegates  Highest Value of Female DelegatesDifferenceEffectStandard ErrorLower Confidence IntervalUpper Confidence Interval
Coefficient    0.343670.388940.0452750.272320.38623-0.484671.0293
Odds Ratio    0.343670.388940.0452751.31300NA0.615902.7992

Table 3: Effect of the Proportion of Female Heads of Delegation on Gender Mandates

Outcome    Lowest Value of Female Heads of Delegation  Highest Value of Female Heads of DelegationDifferenceEffectStandard ErrorLower Confidence IntervalUpper Confidence Interval
Coefficient    0.17730.247540.0701531.01270.474490.0826861.9427
Odds Ratio    0.17730.247540.0701532.7529NA1.0862006.9773

The above tables are the raw results of two separate linear regressions, including coefficient estimates, odd ratios, and a report of the 95% confidence intervals. Table 1 displays the results for a linear regression that tests the effect of increasing the number of female delegates on the number of gender mandates in climate decisions from COP and Bonn conferences. Table 2  displays the effect of increasing the proportion of female heads of delegation on the number of gender mandates. Increasing the proportion of female delegates in climate negotiations makes it 1.31 times more likely that there will be a high number of gender mandates in resulting policy and decisions. This means that simply increasing substantive female representation at climate negotiations has an effect on the content of climate policy. However, a more pronounced effect is noticeable when taking into account an increasing proportion of female heads of delegation, giving attention to the importance of female degree of influence in policy negotiations. As seen in Table 3, the coefficient is positive and statistically significant, which shows a positive relationship with the number of female heads of delegation and the number of gender mentions using 95% confidence intervals. Table 3 also shows that increasing the proportion of female heads of delegation makes it 2.75 times more likely that there will be a high number of gender mandates. Therefore, increasing general female participation as well as female leadership at climate negotiations both have a significant effect on the mentions of gender in climate policies. Increasing the number of women in international political bodies does have an effect on the content and objective of climate policy, giving more importance to the gendered impacts of climate change. This reveals the impact of “tokenism” on UN processes.

Discussion of Results

As the tests show, there is evidence to show that increasing the number of women in climate negotiations does have a significant effect on the content and objectives of the resulting policy efforts. Starting with the t test, it is clear that after the GAP was introduced, and the number of women at climate negotiations increased, there was greater attention given to the gendered impacts of climate change, which was measured through the increase in gender mandates after GAP’s introduction. The linear regressions tests show that although simply increasing female representation does have an impact, increasing the number of female leaders has a greater result in increasing attention given to gendered impacts of climate change.

The design and intent of this study is to show the general relationship before and after the GAP is implemented, not to imply causation. In order to do so, a more robust data set would be required.


Tokenism refers to when a certain gender, race, or other group comprises less than 15% of the total. These individuals are often included to create the illusion of diversity35. “Tokens” often experience discrimination in their workplace, such as isolation and limited opportunities36. This results in them having less influence in their work. In terms of this research, the effect of tokenism is seen through the linear regression t tests. When there is a lower proportion of women included in climate negotiations, there are less gender mandates, compared to when more women become involved. When women are treated as “tokens”, there are only a few women included, they are not able to influence the outcomes and decisions to a high level, also attesting to critical mass theory. Additionally, women overcome tokenism when they are included as leaders in negotiations. This trend is seen through the second linear regression test. Including women as leaders gives them more power in climate talks, which results in a more pronounced increase in gender mandates. Going forward, it is crucial that there is not only a substantive increase in female representation at climate negotiations, but also an increase in female leadership.

Understanding the impact of tokenism has a significant impact on shaping policy, especially in regards to gender sensitive issues like climate change. Tokenism plays a role in the outcomes of decision making processes and highlights a need for a more nuanced approach to women’s inclusion in negotiations related to climate policy. Tokenism creates a facade of diversity and representation, as a result, when women are treated as tokens at climate negotiation conferences, their ability to meaningfully influence policy outcomes is curtailed.

The token presence of women in climate negotiations, as revealed by linear regression t tests, correlates with a decreased prevalence of gender mandates. This suggests that a numerical increase in female participation alone might not translate into substantial policy changes if these women are relegated to peripheral roles.

In the context of climate negotiations, where decisions hold global implications, this limitation has far-reaching consequences. Policies crafted without authentic and influential input from diverse perspectives risk being incomplete, overlooking crucial dimensions, and lacking the inclusivity necessary for effective implementation.

Consequently, it is crucial to focus on encouraging more substantial female participation in the realm of climate policy, especially by taking up leadership roles that counteract the influence of tokenism. Female leadership addresses tokenism as well as encourages women to take a more active role in driving policy change. The second linear regression test reinforces this notion, revealing that when women are in leadership positions, the increase in gender mandates becomes more pronounced. This underscores the transformative potential of genuine and impactful female leadership.

My research recognizes that numerical representation, while important, is insufficient if it doesn’t translate into meaningful influence. Women’s leadership is positioned as a catalyst for dismantling tokenism, ensuring that women not only participate but also play a central and influential role in shaping climate policies.

Additionally, it should be noted that political ideologies and regional differences are noteworthy factors that could shape policy outcomes in complex ways. For instance, the ideological orientation of decision-makers and the prevailing political climate within international negotiations may impact the prioritization and integration of gender considerations in climate policies. Additionally, regional disparities in climate impacts and vulnerabilities may influence the emphasis on gender in policy discussions. It is imperative to recognize that a multitude of interconnected factors contributes to the formulation of climate policies.

The consequences of tokenism are particularly significant in the context of global decision-making on climate issues. Policies crafted without authentic and influential input from diverse perspectives risk being incomplete and less effective in addressing the complexities of gender-sensitive issues like climate change. Recognizing this, the research advocates for a shift towards more substantial female participation, especially in leadership roles, as a means to counteract the influence of tokenism. The findings of the second linear regression test affirm the transformative potential of female leadership in dismantling tokenism. When women assume leadership positions in climate negotiations, the increase in gender mandates becomes more pronounced, emphasizing the pivotal role of authentic and impactful female leadership.

Importance to Policy

By highlighting the gendered effects of climate change, my research plays an essential role in developing climate policy. As previously explored, women are disproportionately affected by climate change, and most climate refugees are women37. Climate migrations also increase the risk of forced marriage, human trafficking, and gender-based violence, calling for governmental actions to protect their rights and well-being38. The need for measures promoting gender equality and lasting resilience is highlighted by the recognition of women’s critical roles in maintaining food and water security, particularly in developing countries, and because women experience effects of climate change that men do not39.My research  illustrates how increased female participation in decision-making structures has the potential to lead to comprehensive and responsible policy solutions. Through the results presented, this research advocated for policies that actively advance the role of women in shaping climate policies through international political bodies. This will help incorporate gender-sensitive ideas and allow attention to the gendered aspects of climate change, allowing for the development of more effective and equitable solutions for climate adaptation.

Based on the results of my study, I specifically suggest measures being taken by the UNFCCC to deepen and create a more robust GAP, as well as creating similar protocols for the inclusion of women at climate conferences. Additionally, it is crucial for each nation’s delegation to put more women in leadership positions, counteracting the negative policy implications of tokenism.


Two of the main limitations of this research are a result of data availability. There are a limited number of observations in the set that I created, which only tracks Bonn and COP climate negotiations from 2008-2023. Additionally,  further studies should use country specific data. This could reveal additional trends in whether or not increasing female representation has an effect on environmental policy. With a greater sample size and country specific outcomes, the results of these tests may have been stronger.

This research does not speak to the impact of superficial nature of gender mentions, rather, it analyzes the presence of absence of them. However, this work is an important first step in looking at the impactfulness of gender mentions, which would require a more in depth qualitative piece, including interviews with women who have represented their delegations at climate conferences.

Additionally, the observed correlation between female participation and increased gender mentions in contemporary climate policy does not establish a definitive causal relationship. Secondly, this study predominantly focuses on climate conferences in the modern era, and caution must be exercised when applying the findings to earlier conferences. Evolution in gender dynamics and perceptions of inclusivity over time could influence the extent to which female participation impacts policy outcomes. Moreover, the assumption of a consistent influence of women in decision-making spaces overlooks the changing landscape of gender dynamics, with societal attitudes and expectations evolving over the years.


My research aims to shed light on the importance of female inclusion in climate conferences, highlighting the urgency for an inclusive and gender-sensitive approach to policy development. As the consequences of climate change intensify through natural disasters, women’s livelihoods, security, and well-being are disproportionately jeopardized. The inherent difference in male and female experiences accentuates the need for approaches that consider women in addressing climate change. The empirical validation through linear regression models and two-sample t-tests reinforces that the presence of women does indeed influence the scope and aims of climate policies. Statistically significant results highlight that as the number of women in climate negotiations rise, so do gender considerations and the integration of gender mandates. This research is paramount for climate policy formulation, as it underscores the imperative for holistic and gender-sensitive approaches, advocating for heightened female representation. These findings should act as a call for policies that amplify the role of women in shaping climate policy through international political bodies. In doing so, it paves the way for the creation of more robust strategies for climate adaptation.

Future research should delve into the variables of political ideology and regional differences, conducting a more nuanced analysis to discern their individual and collective influences on the observed changes in gender mentions in policy. Research centered on these variables could reveal alternative explanations. Interviews conducted with women who have represented their delegation’s at previous climate conferences would be an important qualitative element to enhance the study. This research could shed light on how the political orientations of decision-makers and the unique regional contexts in which climate negotiations unfold contribute to variations in the integration of gender considerations. By disentangling the distinct impacts of political ideology and regional differences, future studies can offer a more comprehensive understanding of the intricate dynamics shaping gender-related discourse within the realm of climate policy.


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