The gendered division of labour has an impact on how biological resources are used and also the question of who profits from their utilisation. The different roles assigned to women and men in their families and communities regarding work, property rights and decision-making processes, can result in different skills and capabilities around biological diversity and ecosystems. In the global South, rural populations living in poverty are highly dependent upon natural resources, which are sometimes required to meet up to 90% of their needs. Similarly, around 80% of the world population makes use of traditional medicine, relying on home remedies to fulfil their basic needs. In a Western European context, too, gender differences are particularly relevant when examining power and political influence, as well as attitudes and consumption patterns.
When it comes to formal power, women often have more limited possibilities to exercise their influence. They are underrepresented at the decision-making level in politics, planning and research and own less property. Subsequently, their crucial role and skills in maintaining and promoting biological diversity are often overlooked. However, studies reveal that women are more likely to prefer environmentally-friendly and less risky alternatives than men, and also that they tend to favour organic agriculture and reject the cultivation of genetically modified plants. Gender differences are also evident in consumption patterns, as women often use biological resources collectively, without focusing on financial gain. In many parts of the world, the increasing commodification of nature and biodiversity means that genetic diversity and the knowledge required to maintain it is subjected to the logic of international markets, which generally fails to meet women’s needs or improve their living situation in any substantial way. Evidence also suggests that in Europe, in the important field of agro-biodiversity, women also tend to use biological resources in a more sustainable way. This is highlighted by the fact that the conversion of farms to organic agriculture is often initiated by women.
In the most important international agreement in the area of biological diversity, the 1994 Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD), a reference to the crucial role of women in maintaining and sustainably managing biodiversity is included in the preamble. The CBD was also the first Rio Convention to feature a gender action plan, which was put into place in 2008. The primary goal it to address the integration of a gender-differentiated perspective in the CBD, as well as to strengthen the participation of women. Substantive questions on the gender dimensions of biodiversity, however, are unfortunately not addressed.