Conversation surrounding gender equality in the transport sector has come to the fore in recent years. The book Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez illustrates how we live in a world largely built by and for men. The murder of Sarah Everard in March 2021 on her way home highlights the issues of women’s safety when travelling. As a sector we have a responsibility to respond to these challenges to ensure that transport systems and the associated infrastructure are accessible, safe, attractive and easy to navigate for all users.
It is well documented that gender impacts women’s typical travel behaviour, influencing factors such as mode choice, route choice, travel time of day and feelings of safety. Globally, women are more likely to work part-time, have lower employment rates, and are more likely to complete unpaid care trips and ‘trip-chain’ (a trip made with more than one purpose and destination). For example, one London-based study found that women were 25% more likely to trip-chain than men1.
Transport accessibility and mobility is not gender neutral and research has shown that when gender is not explicitly considered during planning and design processes the outcomes are more likely to benefit men. Historically, transport system design has focused on providing services along key radial commuter corridors during peak hours and services better suited for women’s unique travel needs are often an after-thought. Those without adequate transport provision may be unable to access vital local services and activities, such as jobs, education and healthcare. Problems with transport and poor links to opportunity destinations can contribute to social isolation, by preventing full participation in these life-enhancing opportunities.
These mobility and accessibility inequalities were highlighted to us via the book Invisible Women. The book inspired conversations among ourselves about the inequalities in transport and what we could do to overcome them, leading us to enter the 2020/21 Future Transport Vision’s Group (FTVG) competition. The FTVG is a recently launched annual competition incentivising early career professionals to submit a paper, presentation, or product that responds to the challenges and opportunities posed by ongoing changes in the transportation industry.
We were awarded funding (provided by the Rees Jeffrey’s Road Fund) in February 2021 to conduct a 12-week research project and develop the Gender Equality Toolkit for Transport alongside our everyday work commitments. To understand the current situation and feelings among transport professionals, we carried out an industry survey. This involved 353 respondents, of which 54% identified as being female, 45% male and 1% other. The survey was largely representative of the sector, with a varied mix of experience and current occupation within the sector.
The survey highlighted the need for the Gender Equality Toolkit, with 46% of participants never considering gender within their day-to-day work. This is startling given that around 50% of the population identify as female. It perhaps reflects why many transport systems currently do not meet the specific needs of women.
Respondents thought it would be most useful to attract more women into the transport sector. All the proposed changes in the survey received a mostly positive response.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, a large majority of participants (93%) thought that doing nothing (business as usual) would not be a useful strategy.
Alongside the survey, we carried out two workshops which discussed key outcomes and themes from the survey findings. The workshops asked four key questions:
These questions also allowed us to discuss how the toolkit could benefit participants respective areas of work. This helped to ensure the toolkit created represented the views and needs of today’s transport professionals, making it more likely to be deemed useful and have the intended effect; to encourage gender mainstreaming in the transport industry.
In response to the gender inequalities issues mentioned above, we created the Gender Equality Toolkit in Transport (GET IT). The aim of the toolkit is to inform transport professionals how the work that they do and the decisions that they make impact women's mobility and to provide a resource to encourage them to be gender responsive, to ultimately create gender inclusive transport systems.
The toolkit has three main aims, which are to:
Inform: Explain and demonstrate why gender needs to be a key consideration during our work.
Support: Provide a practical introduction to gender inequality with clear steps that can be taken to support gender mainstreaming and encourage gender-responsive actions.
Mobilise and Unite Action: Join people together from across the transport industry to create a movement and platform for connected thinking, with the goal of making a difference.
The toolkit outlines eight key areas of focus that our research found to be the most essential to help make transport systems more equitable from a gender perspective. Each of these areas of focus informs the other in some way, but each is important and can have an impact on their own.
Each area of focus has several drivers for change which list actions to take to help achieve gender equality. Case studies then provide examples on research undertaken and where positive change in these areas has been possible. This is further supported by a list of useful resources, including a mix of items ranging from podcasts to training courses and good practice examples.
Below are the eight areas of focus:
Our research highlighted the need for better education on gender equality issues in transport. More awareness is needed so that more of the sector understands that it is an issue, and one that our work can help solve. Collectively, this will help to mobilise action, generating a fundamental shift in how the industry considers gender in its work (and not just economic value). To address this, we need to transition away from business as usual and challenge the status quo to ensure that gender is considered in all of the work that the sector carries out.
Engagement and consultation are fundamental components of policy development and transport system design processes. Although we may believe that we are planning for all transport users, our assumptions and unconscious bias limit our ability to do so. Therefore, having accessible and well-planned engagement and consultation processes in place will help us to better incorporate the voices of women and marginalised genders, understanding and providing for their unique transport needs.
Many professionals believe that their consultation processes are already credible. To strengthen this, we recommend giving women greater consideration, evaluating the demographics of the people participating and making specific efforts to target the silent minority.
In the UK women account for just 21% of the overall workforce in the transport industry. It is crucial that the transport industry represents all of the needs of the people that it mobilises. More women are needed in the industry to bring in diversity of thought and experience of accessibility and mobility. To achieve this, the industry must be inclusive and welcoming towards women, empowering, encouraging and retaining them at all stages of their career. This is something that was notable in our workshops, with some emotive and honest accounts given from participants about how they feel the industry does or does not support them. An industry that has gender parity is better equipped to understand different user experiences, is better at problem solving and will ultimately see greater economic, environmental and societal success.
Data is utilised in some format in nearly all transport projects. However, in most cases this data is gender neutral and therefore reinforces gender stereotypes and perpetuates inequality. Having gender disaggregated data would rectify the gender data gap and allow transport professionals to better understand the gendered differences of transport policy, design and networks. Understanding this allows for better gender responsive planning and provides better information to overcome inequalities.
Every design has the potential to include or exclude people. Inclusive design therefore considers the importance of user diversity when making design decisions to create places which everyone can use. Inclusive design enables everyone to participate equally, confidently and independently in everyday activities (Design Council, 2021). This creates spaces that are accessible, safe, attractive and easy to navigate. Designing infrastructure with a ‘gender lens’ offers enabling environments that creates equal opportunities.
Policies shape the spatiality and structure of the transport system and UK transport policy rarely includes reference to gender. This is discouraging when other places, such as Sweden and Vienna, have specific gender mainstreaming priorities in their planning strategies. Some 48% of survey respondents either disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement, “current UK transport policy meets the needs of all genders equally”.
If the policy is not in place to provide direction and attention, initiatives will ignore the unique needs of half of the population and will struggle to be democratic or achieve their full economic potential. Having gender equality included in strategic policy means that a gender perspective will be considered earlier in projects and with greater standing. Better policy targeting will create better delivery and gender equality in transport schemes.
Once a scheme is in place it is key to monitor and review this to assess if travel patterns have changed or if the issues identified beforehand have been improved. Negative social impacts of schemes are often felt more severely by women due to existing gender inequalities and vulnerabilities. We must identify if this has occurred to ensure that inequalities have not been perpetuated and, if so, are mitigated. We recommend a Gender Impact Assessment (GIA) as a core tool to help identify this.
We each have a role to play to facilitate gender equality in the transport industry and, as transport professionals, we have the skills and capability to each consider gender in our daily work. The drivers for change list ways in which people can empower change on a day-to-day basis. Doing these together we can help to create change to make more equitable transport systems.
Through our survey, workshops and conversations we are deeply encouraged that the transport industry wants to see change and understands that we each have an individual responsibility in making that happen.
First and foremost, we hope that the toolkit inspires transport professionals to consider gender in the development of any current or future transport systems. Secondly, we hope that the toolkit becomes a ‘go to’ resource for transport professionals looking to incorporate gender into their work.
Early discussions with both councils and private consultancies have been encouraging and demonstrate a desire and necessity to ensure schemes consider all genders. We hope to continue to work with a range of partners.
The toolkit is a ‘live’ document, which we are continually looking to update to ensure it remains relevant and highlights any work which has helped to successfully achieve gender equity in any aspect of the transport sector. We welcome any feedback, ideas and new content which we can add to the website so please get in touch.
To find out more about GET IT visit: www.the-get-it.com
Molly Hoggard, Marie Godward and Laura Brooks are the founders of the Gender Equality Toolkit in Transport (GET IT) which recently won the Future Transport Vision Group’s inaugural competition and was awarded the Outstanding Project Award. Further details on the FTVG can be found at: https://www.ftvg.co.uk/
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