Opinion pieces

Why the gender dimension must be front and centre in the Smart and Sustainable Mobility Strategy

This week is European Gender Equality Week. I’m pleased that the European Parliament and Commission could meet in the Transport Committee to discuss the role of Women in Transport.

From crash test dummies to the design of transport networks, the position of women as second-class citizens has been hard-wired into transport policy and practice. Only 10% of transport ministers have been women in recent years. This needs to change. I’m pleased that three women have been Transport Commissioners. The current commissioner – Adina Vălean and previously Loyola de Palacio and Violeta Bulc.

Only 22% of the transport industry’s workforce is made up of women, and it is as low as 14% in some sectors. Let’s change this. Women are under-representation on committees such as these: as low as between 7% and 40%. Almost half of the women employed in the transport sector think their workplace does not prioritise a safe and adequate work environment for women.  These are stark figures with very real consequences.

So, what is the real-world effect of having fewer women in the transport workforce and in transport policy-making? One practical consequence is quite literally lethal: reports have found that because crash-test dummies have been designed based on the average male body, safety features in cars put women at greater risk because they are not taking account of differing physiological features. As a result, women are 47% more likely to be seriously injured in car crashes and 17% more likely to die.

Another is, of course, that the needs of women are not properly served by having a workforce and decision-making dominated by men. Women’s transport habits are different from men’s. They typically undertake more trips than men, with a greater variety of routes and modes. On average women also depend more on public transport and cycling and walking than men because they often have less access to private cars.

In a world where most of our public space and transport policy in cities is designed around private cars – gender matters and it’s unfair. Design has consequences. The safety of women and girls in outdoor space is compromised on account of their needs being insufficiently taken into account in transport planning. I see this in the chamber when we often focus on mega projects to the detriment of small but significant changes that can make a real difference.

What about transport jobs? Throughout the mobility package, we heard of harrowing stories of nomadic freight drivers travelling for weeks on end across the continent in poor working conditions. This lack of a proper work-life balance is problematic for all workers. Pervasive traditional gender roles are can often translate into further barriers for women to enter the transport workforce as it is the very thing needed to break down these roles.

This is why we also need more women in transport decision-making.

I’m therefore calling on the Commission to ensure that the gender dimension is front and centre in the Smart and Sustainable Mobility Strategy due out in December.

Watch a shortened video of me speaking to the European Parliament’s Transport Committee by clicking here.


October 29, 2020

first published

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