Women Leading on Climate

By Brett Matulis

My greatest mentors have been women. Teachers, supervisors, academic advisors, and role models. On the recent International Women’s Day, which took place last week, I spent some time reflecting on the women who have shaped my life, guided my direction, and offered endless wisdom and support. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without strong female leadership showing me the way.

With the rest of Women’s History Month still ahead of us, it’s worth reminding ourselves of (and taking inspiration from!) women’s leadership in the climate movement. Here’s a short list for you to consider:

  • Eunice Foote (1819-1888) was a pioneering scientist that published research about the effect of carbon dioxide on temperature rise from solar radiation. We understand this effect today as the primary driver of climate change, and Foote described it in 1856, long before theories of global warming were formulated.

  • Jane Fonda is a tireless campaigner in the contemporary climate movement. She was recently recognized by ecoAmerica for her lifetime of achievement.

  • Ayana Elizabeth Johnson is a marine biologist and climate advocate who has written on ocean climate policy, the climate movement, and the ways that racial justice intersects with climate.

  • Christiana Figueres, Patricia Espinosa, and Joke Waller-Hunter are all former heads of the UNFCCC, the world’s premiere climate change body. Combined, they were at the helm of international climate leadership for the majority of the UNFCCC’s 29 year existence.

  • Varshini Prakash and Sara Blazevic co-founded the Sunrise Movement, which successfully campaigned to elect climate-oriented politicians and has pressed for political action on climate change.

  • May Boeve is the Executive Director of 350.org, one of the most important climate organizations in the world. She’s a no-nonsense leader on the front lines.

  • Greta Thunberg, now a household name, is an inspiring leader and shining hope of the next generation. Launched into fame for catalyzing the School Strike for Climate, Greta continues to lead in the youth climate movement.

  • Finally, close to use here at ecoAmerica, the dozens of women on the Path to Positive, Climate for Health, and Blessed Tomorrow Executive Committees and the ecoAmerica Board.

This quick list barely scratches the surface. There are so many more. Who inspires you? Reach out and let us know!


About the Author
Brett Matulis, Communities Program Director, ecoAmerica

Additional Resources

Path to Positive Communities Resources

Path to Positive Communities – Ambassador Training

American Climate Leadership Awards 2023: Zoom Registration


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