In this paper I examine the relationship between female empowerment and achieving sustainable

development. Despite the attention that climate change and sustainability attract from academics,

activists, and policy-makers throughout the world, there remains limited empirical and theoretical analysis

of the impact of ecofeminist and women and environment ideas for reducing the global ecological

footprint and that of individual nations, therefore creating sustainable societies. I seek to extend

important research regarding impacts on ecological footprints (Jorgenson 2003; Jorgenson, Rice, and

Crowe 2005; Marquart-Pyatt 2010; York, Rosa, and Dietz 2003) by including a gender and development


There is a valuable and growing body of work (Banerjee and Bell 2007; Dankelman 2002;

Denton 2002; MacGregor 2010; Terry 2009) examining the gendered impacts of climate change and

inequality associated with environmental politics and the quest for climate justice (Newell 2005; Roberts

and Parks 2006; Strachan and Roberts 2003; Terry 2009; Tokar 2010). This research focuses primarily on

outcomes, however, and thus how women are affected by development. In this paper I am interested more

in how women affect development and not the other way around. With empowerment women have an

increasingly important role shaping development and sustainability (Moraes and Perkins 2007; Sharma

1998; Vázquez Garcıa 2001). Using a cross-national approach and extending this literature with empirical

and theoretical use and evaluation of ecofeminist and women and environment perspectives, this paper

brings a much-needed gender element into the conversation on development and sustainability (Littig


I examine two primary research questions in this analysis: 1) What is the connection between

women’s empowerment and environmental well-being? and 2) How does improving women’s lives on

economic, political, and social fronts contribute to sustainable development that does not fall into the

same patterns of consumption and a harmful ecological footprint? Exploring these questions will connect

and contribute to multiple areas within sociology including comparative social change, environmental

sociology, gender and development, inequality, and social movements. In addition, it will be a part of