SEI Research Synthesis Brief: Gender, development and sustainability

Submitted by Julia Barrott | published 30th Nov 2016 | last updated 10th Jan 2020
woman tosses fish sei gender synthesis fig1 0 - climate adaptation.


Men and women play different roles and have differing degrees of power in societies, and this affects their access to and control of resources and opportunities, as well as their relative vulner- ability. Yet despite extensive research on gender in the context of sustainable development, gender issues are often neglected or poorly addressed in development policy and practice. Many interventions fail to recognize gender differences, while others oversimplify or fall back on stereotypes.

SEI’s work on gender aims to narrow this gap between knowl- edge and policy and practice, both by exploring specific gender issues, and by explicitly addressing gender differences across a broad range of environment- and development-focused studies. Below we present key insights from this work, as well as key activities. We end by charting a path for new research on gender in multiple contexts: from political ecology, to the “green economy”. 

Download the full synthesis brief from the right-hand colum. The key insights from the brief are provided below.

Key insights

  • Unequal power relations, formal and informal, are the key drivers of women’s disproportionate vulnerability to environmental degradation, climate change and disasters. Policy interventions need to address these inequalities.

  • Gender is only one of several factors that determine women’s vulnerability to climate change and other environmental stresses, their resilience, and their adaptive capacity.

  • Gender-blind environmental and development policies and programmes will often disadvantage women, and may exacerbate gender disparities. 

  • Gender inequality is a multi-faceted problem and needs to be addressed on multiple levels: from households, to communities, to development programmes, to national laws.

Further resources

  • This brief was written by Bernadette Resurrección, Lisa Segnestam, Åsa Gerger Swartling and Marion Davis, with input from, Sukaina Bharwani, Ruth Butterfield, Mònica Coll Besa, Tahia Devisscher, Neela Matin, Ha Nguyen, and Jenny Roe. 

    Suggested Citation

    Resurrección, B. P., Segnestam, L., Gerger Swartling, A. and Davis, M. (2014) SEI Research Synthesis Brief: Gender, development and sustainability. Stockholm Environment Institute: Bangkok, Asia.