Issues around gender inequality and transport – along with wider equality, accessibility and inclusivity concerns – are climbing higher and higher up political, social and professional agendas. For me especially, as one of the females that make up 50.61 % of the UK’s population, according to 2109 World Bank figures, gender has been on my radar for many decades.
However, things have a way of finding their time, and the impacts of lockdowns and the pandemic have shifted the status quo of social and political consciousness. The past year has, happily, seen a rapid ramping up of gender-focused initiatives. This far from being a minority issue – women make up more than half the world’s population – and we feel it’s time for a focused approach.
We’ve been exploring these issues for a while now, with one highlight being an all female plenary session at our annual Modelling World conference that debated issues of gender bias in data and modelling. More recently, we produced a series of evening lectures in support of International Women’s Day, with four events over the course of a week.
Toolkits, networks, films, research and reports aplenty have come to the fore in recent months, designed to spotlight and ameliorate both the situation of women as professionals within the transport sector, and the challenging situation of women and girls as users of our roads, streets, pavements, taxis, public transport systems and evolving mobility networks; indeed, as users of public space itself.
Many related things are happening here. The ‘Me Too’ campaign and the growing awareness of sexual harassment and lack of safety for girls and women in society have added to prior awareness of gender pay gaps, glass ceilings, lack of opportunity and STEM training, lack of peer and support networks and poor opportunities for career development.
Being involved in the transport sector, Landor LINKS has come up against gender bias many times. Professionally, I've struggled for years to find senior female speakers willing, or able, to join their male peers on plenary panels, to Chair key sessions, and to take forward the development of workshops and projects.
Thankfully, this is now beginning to change. I remember, back in 2016, emailing and calling all the senior women I know – plus a few very helpful men (a special shout out to Tricia Hayes, then director general of roads, devolution and motoring at the Department for Transport, Jennie Martin of ITS UK, Karla Jakeman of Innovate UK and Steve Gooding, RAC Foundation) – to help me to balance a woefully male-dominated Smarter Travel Live programme.
I’m pleased to say that Landor LINKS has always been supportive of me putting in the time and effort to make our events and initiatives as gender-balanced and diverse as possible. But it's not easy. It's getting easier, but it's still not easy. Whether it’s the lack of female professionals in the sector, or the imbalance of home and family commitments, there’s still a long way to go.
That’s why we are working on curating a series of transport and urbanism events focusing on the benefits – and the ‘how to’ practicalities – of creating places and mobility networks that work for women and girls. Put simply, we will explore the work that’s being done now, and the good work that has been done in the past, and create a platform for sharing and showcasing best practice.
Working alongside stakeholders and partners on the same journey, and beginning in summer 2021, we plan to explore with candour issues that have, for far too long, been on the ‘too difficult’ list, and we welcome your thoughts and suggestions. Email me on firstname.lastname@example.org
Our suggestions include:
• Transport is not gender-neutral: could catering for women's trips reduce car dependency?
• Transport accessibility for all
• Education, training, CPD and support networks
• Enhancing women’s professional opportunities in transport
• Designing streets and infrastructure for women and girls?
• Understanding gender related travel trends, patterns and needs?
• Gender-based budgeting?
• How egocentric bias can lead to poor decision-making
• Innovation for women’s mobility needs
• Safety and security in the public realm and on transport networks
• Learning from women in transport professions
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