Cristina Talacko - Chair, Coalition for Conservation
As a young person, I was interested in pursuing a career that was personally fulfilling without giving much thought about the financial reward, which I now recognise as a familiar trait to many women. I’ve always been passionate about the environment and female empowerment, possibly due to growing up in Brazil, where exposure to poverty, inequality and environmental damage can either desensitise you or compel you to act.
But my plans to become a lawyer and advocate for the causes I believed in were shattered when I came to Australia in the late 90s. As a female migrant my lack of established social networks, combined with homesickness, and the deep disappointment that my Law degree was not recognised, forced me into a radical career change: setting up a company.
Eventually I came to terms with this huge professional detour accepting my fate as an entrepreneur, but two things have gradually bothered me as an Australian female: I became disillusioned by the political response to climate change and to gender inequality, witnessing how the climate debate caused leaders to become casualties on both sides of the partisan divide and how women become casualties of the political environments built by men.
I was drawn to Coalition for Conservation, a movement of Liberals and Nationals advocating for the end of climate wars and to the NSW Liberal Women’s Council, which advocates for more female voices in politics. As Chair of C4C and Vice President of the Women’s Council, I’ve had the privilege of interviewing some brilliant and powerful leaders and must admit that the ones that stand out for me are usually women.
I’ve been fortunate to build a bond with three female passionate advocates for the female empowerment and for the environment who have inspired me to continue my work in the very polarized climate space: former European Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard, former UK Prime Minister Theresa May, and our own NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
Theresa and Gladys partnered at C4C webinar last year, discussing how conservatism and conservation are at tandem. There were many memorable candid moments including when Gladys told Theresa: "To have a conservative Tory government legislate net zero by 2050 emissions is the stuff of dreams in Australia. We can only hope to emulate it".
Recently, whilst interviewing Theresa for the second time, I asked her what she considered to be her greatest achievement to date. She replied: “in terms of what might make the biggest difference collectively in the future, it was setting the net zero target in the UK.”
As for Connie, she has one of the most enviable records in international and domestic policy on climate, and she has a special female ability to bring a pragmatic approach to a divisive theme, motivating the individual to take responsibility, demanding action and setting the example: “You are not sitting passively waiting for somebody, or for politicians, to do it, “she told me. "Wherever we are, we can try to make our contribution to the world changing track. We need to act now”.
In a quest to understand why female voices are so crucial to the climate solution and to improve the political discourse, I've reflected on my own life experience and identified a few points of distinction: women seem to be less motivated by profit and more motivated by passion, genuinely caring about society, the environment and its effect on health and wellbeing.
Women are forced to be resilient, persistent, resourceful and adaptable as historically, business and political environments have been built by men for men, and women have had to learn how to navigate better and negotiate more for themselves.
Women also tend to be more prone to listening to both sides of an argument without letting ego get on the way. And women get things done.
The challenge of tackling climate seems very similar to the challenge of closing the gender gap: in the case of women, waiting for cultural change to happen organically is as unrealistic as waiting for society to do the right thing for the planet. In both cases, we need positive action for change to happen.
Why? Because the traditional male “pub test” has been an impediment to progress in gender equality as well as the climate conversation. Not much good gets done in the world if things are always reduced to the lowest common denominator.
So ladies, on this year’s International Women’s Day - a year where setting strong targets for women and for climate, taking unambiguous action is absolutely vital to reaching future climate goals and changing male culture - we need your voices now more than ever.