The COVID-19 pandemic, like the climate crisis, is amplifying existing racial and gender injustices in our society. TIME editors Naina Bajekal and Elijah Wolfson moderated a conversation with two women working to create a more inclusive climate leadership space: American author, strategist and teacher Katharine Wilkinson, who co-founded and leads The All We Can Save Project to nurture a leaderful climate community; and queer Colombian activist Maria Alejandra Escalante, who is the climate and environmental justice advocacy officer at FRIDA The Young Feminist Fund, which supports young feminist organizers in the Global South.
We know the pandemic has driven women out of the workforce, including out of academic research, in significant numbers. Do you have a sense of how this is playing out in terms of women’s leadership in the climate space — whether in your own life or from those in your network?
Wilkinson: There’s been a lot of “behind the scenes” conversation among women in climate about how hard the pandemic has been for mothers and caregivers. We’ve heard tales of “dad” colleagues proclaiming with glee how much time they have to write now, and foundation program officers expecting projects to proceed apace—if not faster!. The U.S. is a hard place to be a mother on a good day, in particular given lack of adequate maternity leave or affordable childcare and abundance of unwaged domestic labor, and those good days have been hard to come by in the last year. To be perfectly honest, “thank goodness I don’t have kids” has been a recurring thought for me during the pandemic. For some mothers who work on climate, just a simple good night’s sleep has felt desperately out of reach. Patriarchy, spotlighted by the pandemic, is bad for inclusive climate leadership.
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These Women Are Transforming What Climate Leadership Looks Like. Here’s What They Learned From the Pandemic