photo by DimaBerlin (AdobeStock)
Gendered barriers to travel: moving from understanding to actionThe case for putting inclusion & diversity on the Transport Research agenda
Most Transport practitioners would likely consider themselves as being pro-inclusion, maybe even citing the lack of representation of women and minority groups within the industry itself and pointing to programmes to encourage these groups of people to enter and progress through the industry through better visibility, opportunities and working environments.
Whilst this is commendable, and indeed representation within the industry is important for wider social equality, there is a greater benefit to encouraging these groups into the industry, and it is one that needs to be addressed through other means whilst industry wide representation slowly continues to materialise. That is the disparity in transport uptake and experiences across different demographics.
The fact that transport systems don’t work for the entire population equally remains somewhat of an ‘unknown unknown’ for many. For example, although it is well recognised in academia that there are gendered differences in travel this awareness isn’t always mirrored by industry practitioners and decision makers. These variations include displayed travel behaviour, desired travel behaviour, perceptions when travelling and conditions needed to travel. It is also known that in some circumstances these differences may contribute to unequal user outcomes with the majority of negative impacts often being experienced by women. These outcomes include constrained travel, worse perceptions, fewer choices, and reduced safety. In turn these outcomes can be linked to wider gender-based issues including the gender pay gap, violence against women, and impacts on physical and mental wellbeing. Similar gaps and outcomes are also seen for other minority groups and can vary with age; a “lifecycle” effect.These differences can be difficult to capture through traditional data collection and are not holistically captured in the appraisal process through transport professionals own lived experiences due to a lack of diversity within teams.
With no existing representation it is important that research on diversity & inclusion in transport is undertaken and presented to the industry to bridge the gap between lack of representation in decision makers and datasets, and the needs of under-represented groups. This also makes good business sense, understanding and actioning these inequalities increases the value of schemes by encouraging higher uptake, resulting ultimately in more benefits under the traditional transport appraisal.
Transport planners have the duty to raise awareness of these issues and guide practitioners to create more inclusive projects at all stages of development; from early modelling and appraisal to scheme design and delivery. The benefits of incorporating D&I into transport projects span economic, environmental, and social outcomes – positively impacting the business case for schemes.
On the occasion of the European Transport Conference 2021, a paper was presented containing a detailed feedback from industry decision makers regarding barriers to creating inclusive projects. They also identify key recommendations which they believe are key to building on the current momentum and encourage transport practitioners to drive this change:
- Awareness of the Opportunity
It was seen that previous transport trends that have successfully come to the forefront have been linked to pioneering change. There is therefore a need to spread awareness of the benefits of considering gender in transport schemes and framing these in the context of an opportunity to become an industry leader in this space, as well as highlighting the potential negative outcomes of not acting.
- Policy Mandates & Aspirations
Past transport trends and discussion with industry practitioners revealed that successful incorporation of trends within the mainstream policy and guidance tended to happen where there was a mandate to do so. An aspiration for creating inclusive outcomes (with targeted areas for consideration), coupled with full compliance with current mandatory equity assessments, must be incorporated into all relevant transport policy documents at a similar scale to the incorporation of environmental and economic impacts to create this mandate for scheme promotors. Funding must also be committed to specifically support the additional work that is required to support these mandates including collecting and analysing gender disaggregated data and incorporating inclusion specific scheme aspects.
- Experimental Approaches
Just as the industries’ understanding of the field of gender and travel is continuing to grow, many trends tend to emerge in the mainstream before they are fully developed. Pilot schemes, research grants, and calls for evidence should be promoted to test specific local contexts and understand outcomes, possibly coordinated by a central group created solely for this purpose (similar to the Climate Change Committee for Net-Zero or the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles for CAVs). Approaches should not be constrained by ‘the way things have always been done’ or fundamental processes and outcome monitoring should be undertaken to resemble a feedback loop, with the majority of policy documents seeing regular updates as scheme outcomes become better understood. Information should also be shared freely as a national repository and intentionally via specific communication pathways to break down silos.
- Leveraging Change
The transport industry has seen significant change around areas like technological innovation, decarbonisation, and COVID-19 impacts. Whilst these changes present significant opportunity and should be capitalised upon in terms of opportunities for enhanced data collection, network planning, and experimental outcomes there is also a risk of future outcomes continuing to be inequitable if no action is taken. The gender-based impacts of these changes must be assessed in to understand any unintentional inequity biases caused by doing nothing and detailed gender-based equality impact analysis should be woven into all future decision making. The time for action is now.