Gender equality and mobility: mind the gap!

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CIVITAS Policy Note

Achieving the target of sustainability in urban mobility also means considering the needs of different users and thereby offering equal levels of accessibility to transport to all different groups. The need to adopt a gender-sensitive perspective is emerging as a challenging and impending task for urban mobility policy makers and planners. In this sense, to be effective, urban mobility policy action needs to be more gender-sensitive.

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A review of the body of literature and research confirms that still little is known about specific needs of genders. On the other hand, the analysis of the socio-economic background together with projections and trends confirm that, though narrowing, the gap between genders is still evident and has effects on mobility patterns.

Lower employment rates, part-time roles and low-wage positions are the main factors which determine a sensible difference between genders in the labour market, in social life and in transport behaviour. Furthermore, even at retirement gender needs are notable, given that women make up the predominant part of the elder population. The picture that emerges is one where women travel differently than men in relation to transport modes used, distance travelled, the daily number of trips and their pattern, and, not surprisingly, they also travel for different purposes.

The gender imbalance emerging from current patterns and trends in mobility and transport reveals the existence of a disparity, which essentially affects three different aspects: the lack of knowledge of gender issues and the scarcity of gender mobility data and statistics, the need to plan gender tailored mobility services and the need to better exploit the synergies between urban and mobility planning.

In this document some noteworthy gender-sensitive experiences of pioneer European countries and cities that have started embedding gender mainstreaming in urban and mobility planning are presented. However a consolidated and shared gender perspective in mobility policy-making is still far from being achieved.

Lessons learned from experiences across Europe reveal that, in addition to the large information gap to be filled by improving gender-based statistical data and research, the measures implemented at local level are usually pilot projects, presenting implementation and sustainability problems due to the lack of dedicated public funds projects. Furthermore, addressing women’s mobility requires interaction between transport and welfare policies which might increase the complexity and length of the decision-making process.

From these considerations gender-sensitive policy recommendations are drawn: key issues to be tackled are the support of women’s participation in decision-making, the improvement in accessibility, safety and comfort of transport modes and the planning of transport services in response to gender needs. Notably, an important driver in this process could be the fact that, according to some studies, women are more likely than men to support or accept sustainability and green economy policies as they appear to be more sensitive to environmental risks and more prepared to make behavioural changes.