women men climate changeAccording to a recent study by a Michigan State University researcher, women tend to believe the scientific consensus on global warming more than men, but lack confidence in their science comprehension.

by Tracey de Morsella

Challenging common perceptions that men are more scientifically literate, a study by a Michigan State University researcher suggests that women tend to believe the scientific consensus on global warming more than men.  According to The study, published in the September issue of the journal Population and Environment, is one of the first to focus in-depth on how the genders think about climate change. The findings also reinforce past research that suggests women lack confidence in their science comprehension.

“Men still claim they have a better understanding of global warming than women, even though women’s beliefs align much more closely with the scientific consensus,” said sociologist Aaron M. McCright, an associate professor with appointments in MSU’s Department of Sociology, Lyman Briggs College and Environmental Science and Policy Program. “Here is yet another study finding that women underestimate their scientific knowledge – a troubling pattern that inhibits many young women from pursuing scientific careers,” he added.

Understanding how the genders think about the environment is important on several fronts, said McCright, who calls climate change “the most expansive environmental problem facing humanity.”

“Does this mean women are more likely to buy energy-efficient appliances and hybrid vehicles than men?” he said. “Do they vote for different political candidates? Do they talk to their children differently about global warming?”

McCright analyzed eight years of data from Gallup’s annual environment poll that asked fairly basic questions about climate change knowledge and concern. He said the gender divide on concern about climate change was not explained by the roles that men and women perform such as whether they were homemakers, parents or employed full time.

Instead, he said the gender divide likely is explained by “gender socialization.” According to this theory, boys in the United States learn that masculinity emphasizes detachment, control and mastery. A feminine identity, on the other hand, stresses attachment, empathy and care – traits that may make it easier to feel concern about the potential dire consequences of global warming, McCright said.

“Women and men think about climate change differently,” he said. “And when scientists or policymakers are communicating about climate change with the general public, they should consider this rather than treating the public as one big monolithic audience.”

Some researchers find that differences in men’s and women’s value orientations explain gender differences in environmental concern.
While other scholars argue that differences in men’s and women’s levels of trust in science and technology explain gender differences in environmental concern.

The McCright recommends that more research should be conducted to examine the importance of different socialization agents (e.g., parents, peers, school) on the development of gender differences in young people’s climate change beliefs and attitudes.   He also recommends that future research should employ refined measures of gender and examine individuals’ beliefs about feminism.

View The Entire Report:  The Effects of Gender on Climate Change Knowledge and Concern in the American Public

© 2010, Tracey de Morsella. All rights reserved. Do not republish.

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Author: Tracey de Morsella (323 Articles)

Tracey de Morsella started her career working as an editor for US Technology Magazine. She used that experience to launch Delaware Valley Network, a publication for professionals in the Greater Philadelphia area. Years later, she used the contacts and resources she acquired to work in executive search specializing in technical and diversity recruitment. She has conducted recruitment training seminars for Wachovia Bank, the Department of Interior and the US Postal Service. During this time, she also created a diversity portal called The Multicultural Advantage and published the Diversity Recruitment Advertising Toolkit, a directory of recruiting resources for human resources professionals. Her career and recruitment articles have appeared in numerous publications and web portals including Woman Engineer Magazine, Monster.com, About.com Job Search Channel, Workplace Diversity Magazine, Society for Human Resource Management web site, NSBE Engineering Magazine, HR.com, and Human Resource Consultants Association Newsletter. Her work with technology professionals drew her to pursuing training and work in web development, which led to a stint at Merrill Lynch as an Intranet Manager. In March, she decided to combine her technical and career management expertise with her passion for the environment, and with her husband, launched The Green Economy Post, a blog providing green career information and covering the impact of the environment, sustainable building, cleantech and renewable energy on the US economy. Her sustainability articles have appeared on Industrial Maintenance & Plant Operation, Chem.Info,FastCompany and CleanTechies.

  • http://www.healthyworkplaces.com Mallary Tytel

    This is an interesting piece that raises lots of questions in my mind. I realize that gender socialization plays a part; however there comes a point when learning, knowledge, critical thinking and decision making take over. So, where and how do women/men get their information; who or what are credible sources; how is this information used; and what stimulates action on critical social, environmental, political, economic and public health issues like climate change? I’m looking forward to reading the entire report. Thanks!