March 11, 2021

Are mobility systems gender-neutral?

Men dominate the transport sector, whether is trains, cars, or planes. In Europe less than a third of people employed in the transport sector are women. The way women and men move around society also differs significantly. Are our mobility systems biased towards men’s travel needs and patterns?

Ramboll Smart Mobility investigated the topic with support from the Ramboll Foundation, Trafikverket, SLL (Stockholm County Council) in Sweden, HSL (The Helsinki Regional Transport Authority) in Finland and VBB (Verkehrsverbund Berlin-Brandenburg) in Germany. The findings from desk research, expert interviews, and survey of more than 3.500 people across 7 countries can be found in the “Gender and (smart) Mobility”.
Gender difference in Mobility
Gender equality is increasingly considered in a variety of sectors in society. However, less emphasis seems to being done in respect to its importance within the transport sector. A lower female participation in the work force and the fact that women often are responsible for more tasks related to organizing family life implies that women walk, use public transport and worry about harassment while doing so more than men. Men dominate the transport sector, whether it is trains, cars, or planes.
The research showed that women walk more than men. Walking is primarily used for grocery shopping, running household errands and everyday leisure activities. One of the challenges that the research revealed was that women to a greater extent than men were concerned for their personal safety when walking at night. In the report women share their strategies to deal with their concerns such as staying away from certain areas, not staying out too late, choosing shoes they can run in to carrying their keys in between their fingers in their pocket as a potential weapon. Cycling by contrast was perceived as being a safer space as the interviewed women felt they could outbike any perpetrator.
Men drive more than women and women are more likely to be the passenger. The cliché of the love affair between a man and his car is confirmed by the research. Women on the other hand are more frequent users of public transport than men. But again, it’s noticed that women to a greater extent than men identify personal safety and fear of harassment and assault as a concern in relation to public transport.
Men and women have different trip patterns. Women’s participation in the work force is lower than men’s and women still handle most of the work related to organizing family life. That implies that women are more likely to make several shorter trips while carrying groceries and accompanying children. Men tend to make longer, but more simpler trips commuting between home and the office. This male trip pattern has shaped our transport policies and planning and our mobility networks do not to the same extent cater for women’s needs for multiple, shorter trips outside the peak hours.
In general women travel more sustainably than men – walking, using public transport and cycling when and where it’s possible.
“Our research also revealed that women to a greater extent than men associate and address sustainability in relation to different modes. Tapping into that could be very interesting as we are working toward creating a more sustainable, CO2-neutral, and green transport sector.” Says Marianne Weinrich, Market Manager Smart Mobility Ramboll and Lead Author of the report.
Gender Mainstreaming in Transport
Women make up half the population and are not niche, but in transport planning male is unconsciously the norm. The way we design and plan our mobility systems becomes crucial if we want our societies to be equitable and thrive. Mobility provides accessibility to healthcare, education, work and much more. An inclusive and non-gender biased mobility system, that caters for different needs is a pre-requisite for any sustainable development.
The concept of gender mainstreaming is the process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programmes, in all areas and at all levels. For the mobility sector this would imply doing a gender assessment throughout the planning, design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation when establishing transport solutions and systems.
“Little attention appears to have been paid to women’s mobility needs. People are unaware of the differences in behavior between how men and women use mobility. The Ramboll Foundation wanted to support this project to raise awareness of the issue and contribute to creating more inclusive mobility”. Says Neel Strøbæk, Member of the board Ramboll Foundation.
Corona and gender
Across the globe the pandemic has had an impact on everybody’s lives. The research was conducted in the middle of the global pandemic and not surprisingly Corona is top of mind when it comes to public transport for the respondents. But what is also seen is that women significantly more than men identify and associate corona with public transport. Since women use public transport more frequently than men this is a problem that need to be addressed when things return to normal.
How Corona will influence our travel and commuting habits only time will tell but people in the service, hospitality and healthcare sector cannot work from home and will still need public transport. And these sectors to a great extent employ women.