Women Need a Greater Role in Designing Transport Systems in Asia
Transport planners need to develop services that are accessible, safe, inclusive, and affordable for all users, particularly for women, who have historically been overlooked.
The transport sector is still largely seen as a field for men, with only about 10% of the workforce being women, despite women making up half of the population and having different travel patterns and considerations. Globally, women held only 19% of public service leadership positions in 2018 and only 18% of staff in infrastructure ministries, compared to 38% in socio-cultural ministries, according to the OECD.
Lack of access to transportation reduces women’s participation in the workforce by 16.5%, according to the International Labour Organization. Research also shows that men and women travel differently. Across Asian cities, more women travel in off-peak hours than men. Women don’t own as many private vehicles as men, and feel unsafe in using public transportation.
There are many faces of women. She could be a leader, worker, mother, caregiver, home-maker, combinations of these or much more. We need to focus on that throughout the design of transport projects and services. Here are four basic principles to consider:
- Integrating formal and informal transport networks: Improving physical networks, such as the smooth integration of informal and formal transport systems to allow women to move their produce from farm to market, from home to employment. Informal transport networks are those which may not have necessary permits for operating legally but are useful means for women and poor people to travel as they don’t have always access to formal transport networks or personal vehicles.
- Ensuring personal safety on and around public transport for all: Design to promote enhanced safety, through lighting, removing blind spots, and by promoting greater visibility on key pedestrian routes.
- Gender Inclusive and affordable choices for vulnerable users: Gender inclusive transport takes into account women’s mobility patterns, provides them with access and opportunity to use transport, and provides safe transport options. Affordable travel options enhance transport connections between lower income and disadvantaged areas and economic centers. Affordable transport gives people better access to employment, livelihoods, and services.
- Ensuring physical accessibility: Women are often in caregiving roles. The design of transport systems can be enhanced to make it more convenient for women and their dependents to move around.
Women make up half the world but they have marginal influence over transport development in most developing countries.
A shift away from focusing largely on construction of physical infrastructure is needed, to consider transport as an enabler of services. This should result in combination of physical and non-physical interventions, such as policies and reform.
Transport planners need to focus on user-centric approaches; move beyond cookie cutter gender designs; better understand user-needs and women’s mobility patterns by using sex-disaggregated data; and tap advanced innovative technology to enhance mobility for women.
We also need to increase entrepreneurship opportunities for women through transport. This includes removing gender stereotyping in transport institutions with workplace policies and practices to incentivize women’s professional development and opportunities for leadership.
Governments need to incorporate gender perspectives into transport sector policy and institutions to promote a balanced workforce, thereby providing employment, career growth and mentoring opportunities for women.
Women make up half the world but they have marginal influence over transport development in most developing countries. We need to change this in order to improve transport services everyone.