Tuesday 12 March 2019

Women and transport: an opportunity for the industry and for new forms of mobility, by Catherine Trautmann

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It is a great honour for UIC to have an article by Catherine Trautmann on the role played by women in the transport industry. Her visionary action with regard to the tramway in Strasbourg enabled citizens to reassume ownership of the public space in France thanks to high quality transport services. This inspiring article shows us that aside from the evidence that gender parity is beneficial when it comes to economy and performance, it is also key to improving public spaces and reinvigorating creativity to enhance everyone’s experience of using public transport.

François Davenne & Jean-Pierre Loubinoux

‘As I speak, France currently has a female Transport Minister (Elisabeth Borne, following in the trailblazing footsteps of Ségolène Royal a few years earlier), yet it is undeniable that more still needs to be done before full gender balance is achieved in an industry that is still too often perceived as “man’s work”.

The feminisation of the transport industry is an ongoing trend, albeit women’s share of the workforce is still insufficient. Across the sector, the number of female workers has levelled off since 2011, at around 18.5 % of the workforce or 126,900 employees. However, this masks considerable intra-sector disparities: whereas women’s share in the carriage of goods by road is only 11 % (small and large haulage firms, delivery and courier firms, removals, secure transport of cash, etc.), it is almost 40 % in health-related transport, and 20 % in logistics. Overall, therefore, transport remains a male-dominated industry.

In recent years, however, some companies have striven to feminise their workforces and achieve a better gender balance, motivated by business and competitive interests as well as by societal factors. Their efforts are starting to pay off, with the number of women working in the industry continuing to grow. As in other industries, women make up an increasing share of the transport industry workforce.

Whatever sub-sector or skill profile (manual or clerical worker/engine, bus or tram driver/engineer, etc.), the transport industry is open to talented professional women of all types who have proven their worth and abilities, thus paving the way for the next generation.

Nor has the transport industry waited for government to introduce (much-needed) gender equality regulations before feminising its workforce. For many years now, transport-sector players have recruited and trained women in various roles, and are going all-out to try and win over female candidates, encouraging them to apply for jobs in an industry that has traditionally been seen as “man’s work”.
Women’s response to this has been favourable, with increasing numbers of female candidates for these positions, and companies which have made gender balance part of their DNA.

Not only this, but the transport industry is jobs-rich, due partly to a wave of retirements but mostly to issues connected with sustainability, the energy transition and digital innovation.

In an analysis published in December 2018 of corporate best practice boosting gender parity, the European Commission highlighted that key determinants included informing women directly via the promotion of equality, flexible working hours, a safe and high-quality working environment, assurances of equal pay, and the possibility of upskilling through training.

Not all the businesses surveyed did all of the things listed above, but the overall finding was that even just doing a few of them brings swift wins. Recruiting women can thus not be considered simply a stopgap to fill a situation vacant; it has to be seen as a goal which is part and parcel of a company’s grand design. This is all the more true given that the transport and mobility sector is evolving fast and is becoming a driver of change and innovation.

The future of logistics and of road and rail transport will be governed by three key drivers: digitalisation, flexible management, and technological advances.
Today, digitalisation affects every level of society and all of us, whatever our field, need to incorporate a digital approach in developing our business. Transport is no exception to this rule. Successful digitalisation of transport services can boost efficiency, thus improving the cost-effectiveness of integrated transport infrastructure.

Digitalisation is also focused on - and driven by - consumer needs, which constantly push the envelope with new transport models such as “ collaborative consumption” or “Mobility As A Service” (MAAS).

Let us not forget that half of all transport users are women, a fact that needs to be understood at all levels of transport-industry firms, in particular at decision-making level. First of all, everyone has the right to travel in public for whatever reason, whether going to work, picking up the children from school, doing the shopping or simply in pursuit of leisure-time activities.

How this right is exercised, however, will vary depending on one’s sex.
53%! This, according to an Odoxa-Dentsu Consulting survey for France Info radio station and Le Figaro newspaper, is the percentage of French women who have experienced sexual harassment or assault at least once. And according to France’s national federation of public transport users (FNAUT), the figure rises to almost 90% when the environment is a railway station, train, or other means of public transport. These findings should prompt us to rethink public transport infrastructure from a female perspective in order to tackle feelings of insecurity, as well as other forms of female-focused violence such as bag-snatching, catcalls, verbal and physical assault, intimidation, etc.).

When I was elected Mayor of Strasbourg, I sought to enable citizens - of either gender - to reassume ownership of our public space. The tram was a way of ensuring equality of access and freedom of movement. The fundamental, long-term goal was to reshape mobility patterns, shifting the balance back in favour of pedestrians, cycling and public transport and away from car use. I also supported the project for public health reasons. That was when the job of reducing air pollution in Strasbourg really began.

I wanted a tram that was accessible to all, so I chose a design that was lithe and transparent, so that passengers would “glide” through the historic city centre. But a transparent design also allows women to see what is going on inside and out of the tram.
Strasbourg’s trams were designed taking as their starting-point the needs of their users (including disabled passengers). Accessibility, high levels of service and affordable prices, coupled with pedestrian and bicycle friendliness, have all helped the tram profoundly alter our city’s mobility patterns. It has been wonderful to be part of the journey.

For women, mobility remains a major part of emancipation. The ability to travel easily and without hindrance is a fundamental right guaranteeing equality of access to public space, to employment, to leisure, and to healthcare. But transport operators still need to raise their game to meet women’s needs. For example, in the way they design the layout of stations, walkways, even vehicle interiors.
The more women are aware of their role in the various modes of mobility and the associated usage patterns, the more they will choose to play an active role working for and running these networks. I believe that for the transport industry, women are a true source of innovation and creativity in new services. So when we talk about the role of women, we are not simply talking about gender equality. We are talking about society. The more women are involved in designing, operating and managing mobility services, the more female transport users will feel at home on public transport and the better the image they will have of public transport through the high-quality services they experience daily.’

(Catherine Trautmann, former Minister of Culture of France from 1997 – 2000 and Member of the European Parliament 1989–1997 and 2004–2014)

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