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The great climate gender divide

In a New Yorker piece about our Science Moms campaign, I’m quoted as saying, “Men are basically useless.” Yes, I said that. On The New Yorker’s Instagram, the comments were hilariously divided; one user commented, “[You] don’t need tests to prove men are useless!”

The data says…

Time and again, women just appear to be significantly more persuadable to become climate advocates than men. In other words, when men and women are shown the same messages, we see significantly higher increases in “support for government action on climate change” with women.

  • In our last 40 Randomized Control Trial tests, women lift more than men four times more often.
  • The average lift for women exposed to a climate message was 60% higher than for men (see below).
  • Women aged 35–54 appear to be particularly persuaded by climate messages.
  • Our best performing ads to date feature women in conversation with other women, specifically moms in conversation with other moms.

Increase Support

We’re not the only ones who’ve noticed: our partners at Yale Climate Communications have long documented higher baselines in worry and support among women, and the team at Climate Narratives Canada have found parallel findings in a recent study comparing engagement rates of several climate messages on Facebook.

That’s interesting…

Fossil fuel industry messaging works on men, but not much on women. In a test about job creation versus job loss, which pitted a pro-climate message against an ad from the oil-and-gas industry, women were two times more likely to be persuaded to strongly support climate action. Even after viewing the fossil fuel industry’s ad, they remained strong supporters for climate action.

In contrast, viewing a fossil fuel industry ad tended to decrease support for action among men; viewing a pro-climate message, which would otherwise increase support among men on its own, did not counteract the fossil fuel industry’s job loss message. [Notably, the fossil fuel industry tends to serve more ads to men, as a recent report from InfluenceMap shows.]

So what do we do?

  • Get more for your money. If we focus on women, we can persuade twice as many people for the same resources.
  • The climate movement has a lot of Als, Leos, and Bills as spokespeople, but we ought to spend a lot more elevating and raising the voices of women leaders.
  • Build strategies for intergenerational conversations. We know that mom is listening.
  • Look for partnerships with brands and organizations with high trust among women. Are we building enough community around the intersection of climate and women’s issues?
  • To commercial brands weighing whether to step up and finally talk about climate: If your primary audience is women you can be certain that this will enhance your brand equity — go for it.

One more thing…

All jokes aside, men aren’t totally useless — we find that we can indeed persuade them, albeit less than women. For example, money seems to move men, such as when we center messages around flood risks and property cost. All audiences move if we start with their needs and identities. We haven’t given up on men quite yet!

John and Jessica