Mission Net Zero: Why the world needs women to shift to clean transport

Transport cannot become sustainable without the participation of women. The gender dimension must be a core part of decarbonisation policies, research and actions, says Magdalena Olczak-Rancitelli

Without meaningful gender representation in its workforce, planning processes or use of data, the transport sector is likely to fail in its quest to provide net-zero, sustainable mobility. That’s the message of “Gender Equality and the Role of Women in Decarbonising Transport”, a new joint report launched by the FIA Foundation and the ITF.

The report shows that incorporating a gender dimension into decarbonising transport policies consistently would have a significant impact on lowering carbon emissions. Women travel more sustainably than men; they walk more and use public transport more, according to ITF research. Female transport users prefer flexible modes that facilitate trip chaining. Since women do most of the unpaid care work that many families depend on, they travel more often than men with children and other dependents.

Yet transport planning often fails to consider the difference in women’s travel behaviour. Many women experience this lack of inclusiveness in our mobility systems every day. They are thus highly motivated to change transport and tend to have stronger preferences than men for improving sustainability.

Force for change: transport decarbonisation policies ignore the gender dimension of mobility at their peril

Listen, learn, act

Studies show that women prefer clean transport but want to keep cars. What keeps them from choosing the former and dropping the latter? Mostly security concerns in public spaces and their disproportionate care responsibilities in the household.

These factors not only hamper the transition to clean transport. Ultimately, they also limit women’s and girls’ access to education, jobs, health and other services. Policies that address women’s mobility needs and provide safer public space are central to keeping public transport the first choice of women in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Some public and private actors have launched initiatives that show a good understanding of the link between transport, gender and climate change. 

Santiago de Chile, for example, is using an inclusive approach to public transport design that has enabled safety improvements like emergency buttons, safer night routes and the option to top-up travel cards with online payments. Contactless payment card systems that are valid across buses, subways and commuter trains make travel smoother for women, as their travel patterns often involve trip chaining and different transport modes.

What women want: Micromobility operator Voi asked female users about their mobility preferences

Another example is Swedish micromobility operator Voi, a member company of ITF’s Corporate Partnership Board. Voi has organised consultations with women, older people and those caring for young children to learn about their issues using micromobility. As a result, Voi developed their latest generation of e-scooters with more ergonomic handlebars with brakes, indicators and a bell that are easier to reach for smaller hands. Making their vehicles more accessible increases the number of people who can easily use the e-scooters – and helps attract new customers for Voi.

A principled approach

To help align gender equality and decarbonising transport goals, the new report published by ITF and the FIA Foundation offers four guiding principles. These follow the priority areas of the UNFCCC’s Gender Action Plan, with each principle accompanied by specific actions to simultaneously improve gender equality and decarbonising transport:

  1. Strengthen awareness of the gender, transport and climate change policy nexus;
  2. Adopt gender-based analysis when considering decarbonising transport policies;
  3. Lift the skill-level of the whole sector through governments’ multi-stakeholder engagement and integrated policy making;
  4. Create a platform for knowledge sharing between ministries and stakeholder groups
  5. Build diverse teams
  6. Enhance women’s participation and leadership in the transport workforce
  7. Ensure budget processes provide incentives for gender-based policies that decarbonise transport;
  8. Identify synergies between policy goals to quickly and efficiently transition to a zero-carbon transport system
  9. Establish evaluation, monitoring and reporting systems for countries and companies
  10. Identify and implement appropriate gender analysis tools.
ITF Workshop on “Hiring and retaining a gender-diverse workforce” at the OECD in Paris, March 2019

Any policy affecting human behaviour also has a gender dimension that needs to be assessed and taken into account, says Wei-Shiuen Ng, co-author of the report. Those working on decarbonisation-related policies must be trained to increase awareness and provided with the tools to conduct gender-based analysis – which should start at the problem definition or project conception stage.

Co-author Danielle Bassan emphasises the role of decision-makers. They can reinforce the integration of a gender dimension into planning by requesting the results of gender-based analyses and by ensuring these are rigorous. Behaviours will not change without the clear expectation that properly conducted, evidence-based analysis will impact policy decisions relating to transport decarbonisation.

Everybody’s responsibility

The responsibility for making transport both accessible and sustainable lies with all transport stakeholders. Careful research, gendered analysis and corresponding action can address inequalities that exist for female travellers. The ITF is committed to include gender inclusivity as a standard element in the work of the 64-member organisation. “We analyse all our work at ITF using the Gender Analysis Toolkit for Transport to ensure the most inclusive approach and result possible”, ITF Secretary-General Young Tae Kim confirmed at the report launch. “It is my great hope that this will become the norm worldwide. We are all in this together; we all stand to benefit.”

Magdalena Olczak-Rancitelli is a manager for institutional relations and summit preparation at the International Transport Forum

Events and resources:

10 November 2022: Accelerating action on gender equality: How can streets and public spaces enable safer travel for women
A webinar exploring how a lack of safety or the perception of unsafe transport services and infrastructure can prevent women and girls from walking, cycling or using public transport – and what can be done to change that. Organised with the UK Department of Transport and ITF.

14 November 2022: The role of gender equality in decarbonising transport
This COP27 event highlights the linkages between gender equality, transport and climate change and examine the role of women in decarbonising transport.

European Commission study on good staff scheduling and rostering practices in transport

World Bank/UN Women Gender Equality in Transport course

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s