Is there a gender gap when it comes to emotional responses to environmental issues and engagement with environmental charities?

In this week's blog we tackle the important question of our emotional responses to the climate crisis and investigate the difference in response based on gender.
Rosie Burrells
 

Back in November 2019 we wrote a blog exploring the different ways that men and women interact with charities. Our findings highlighted some interesting behavioural differences, namely that women are more likely to donate to charity and to volunteer, whereas men claim to be more likely to leave a gift to charity in their will and get involved in campaigning.

But what about charities operating in the environment sector in particular? Can we observe any interesting differences in the ways men and women engage with environmental issues and charities?

Earlier this month an article in the Guardian asked: ‘why is saving the planet seen as women’s work?’. The article referred to a recent piece of market research showing that women are on average more conscientious about maintaining environmentally-friendly habits. The article suggested that green products are marketed more towards women because they are traditionally viewed as being in charge of the domestic sphere, have a greater tendency toward altruistic and prosocial behaviours, and because many environmentally friendly activities (such as carrying a reusable shopping bag) are viewed as feminine.

Using data from our Charity Awareness Monitor, which is a representative survey of 1,000 members of the general public, we have taken a closer look at how attitudes toward environmental issues might impact charities working in the sector.  

Emotions toward environmental issues

In January 2019 we asked members of the general public about their emotions toward environment and conservation issues. Figure 1 shows a breakdown of the emotions chosen by men and women.

 Emotions toward environmental issues

Looking at Figure 1 we notice that the top emotions felt by both men and women are frustration and powerlessness. There are also a number of differences in the emotions felt by men and women. We can see that men are more likely than women to say they feel hopeful, calm, bored and excited. Whereas women are more likely than men to say they feel frustrated, afraid and angry.

With these emotional differences in mind, we can also look at the percentage of men and women who say that the environment and conservation is their favourite charity cause.

Favourite charity cause

 Favourite charity cause – Environment and conservation

Figure 2 shows that men are more likely than women to say that charities working in the area of environment and conservation are their favourite charity cause.

Of course, emotion is not the only driver of engagement, but this still raises questions about how the differences in emotions that we saw in Figure 1 might be having an impact on behaviours toward charities. Figure 1 shows that women more often express negatively activating emotions towards environmental issues (fear and anger), whereas positively activating emotions are more common amongst men (hopefulness and excitement).

So what does this mean for the suggestion in the Guardian that caring about the environment is predominantly women’s work? It is interesting to consider that despite allegedly engaging in more environmentally friendly behaviours, women are less inclined to view the environment and conservation as their favourite charity cause. Perhaps it is not that men care less about the environment and conservation, but they do on the whole feel emotionally different about it when compared to women. This may be leading men to pursue a path of less direct action, instead deciding to use charities as their medium to fulfil their responsibilities toward the environment.  

 

If you are interested in learning more about our research with the general public please contact the Charity Awareness Monitor team at CAM@nfpsynergy.net or download the briefing pack below.

We also offer an emotional response metric as part of our Charity Brand Evaluator. Get in touch via CBE@nfpsynergy.net or download the briefing pack below to find out more.

For more on how emotions impact people’s decisions about the charities they support, take a look at our free report, An Emotional Journey.

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