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EU Urban Mobility Observatory
News article20 March 20232 min read

New publication outlines how to make mobility gender equal

Addressing barriers to gender-equal mobility is important, not just for the transport sector itself, but in enabling more equitable access for women to economic and political participation in society, from education to healthcare and employment. Harassment and violence remain a leading barrier to using public transport and navigating public space for many women, queer communities and communities of colour. Services often do not sufficiently cater for women’s unpaid caregiving responsibilities, and the transport sector itself remains overwhelmingly male-dominated. Despite the growing focus on the gendered nature of urban mobility services and decision-making at local and international levels, change on the ground has been slow.

To guarantee high-quality, accessible and affordable public transport for all, a gender-sensitive approach to transport policy is critical. This is exactly what the latest research, published by the Left group in the European Parliament, seeks to address. The study “Overcoming gender-based barriers in transport and mobility” places gender equality firmly at the core of the future of sustainable transport in Europe. Indeed, given that women represent (over) 50% of transport users in many geographical regions, engaging them will be critical to achieving decarbonisation objectives.

The report was launched at a high-level event at the European Parliament that examined the study’s findings and the cross-sector action required to accelerate progress towards more gender equal mobility. "Mobility impacts accessing all forms of key economic, educational, health and cultural services, it is at the heart of social justice and social inclusion,” said Roberta Paoletti co-author of the study. The study, which examines gender disaggregated mobility data, gender-based violence, and the impacts of age and economic background, analyses the fundamental policy changes needed for integrating the gender and anti-discrimination perspective into public transport planning processes. "We look at gender within a wider lens, looking at the multiple axes of identity which intersect with gender identity,” said Paoletti.

"Women constitute 50% of transport users, at the same time, 'women' are a diverse group, with intersectional experiences as transport users, workers and decision-makers. As studies like this one from the EU Left continue to maintain momentum towards gender equitable mobility, we need to ensure we understand the varied and complex challenges and opportunities.” said Isobel Duxfield, Membership and Communications manager at Polis, speaking at the event. Rectifying the sector’s workforce gender imbalance is key to addressing this, which is what the Sustainable Mobility for All Gender Working Group’s (SUM4All) latest initiative seeks to achieve, with a focus on differences across the globe and the range of possible approaches. 

Women account for just 22% of Europe’s transport workforce. This is just an average – figures dip below 15% in the bus sector and below 5% of pilots. At the same time, women make up just 16% of ministers with transport portfolios across the 27 EU Member States and one in five logistics organisations have no females on their board. Just this month, the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s latest overview of Women in Politics placed transport second to last in the global rankings of policy areas that have women Cabinet Ministers. The research conducted by POLIS and funded by the FIA Foundation within the SUM4ALL Gender Working Group draws from primary research across multiple transport modes operating in regions around the world, identifying the primary barriers to gender equitable employment, recommendations for action, and in-depth case studies from those pioneering transformative change.

This article first appeared on POLIS network on 10 March 2023.



Publication date
20 March 2023
  • Policy and research
  • Europe-wide