1. Where does the main challenge lie?
Transport systems are a catalyst for economic growth, and transport-related spending amounted to about 2% of global GDP in 2015. Importantly, transport provides people (women and men) with access to jobs, education, and healthcare. It also connects goods and services to markets, and is a key driver of growth.
While women are the biggest users and main champions of sustainable mobility, this is often not reflected in transport plans, strategies and projects. To correct this problem, the needs of women have to be considered separately, including in particular:
- Travel characteristics and expectations: the combination of overall different trip patterns, purposes, modes and travel times. A woman (or man) walking together with small kids to school is likely to value the street’s safety (and therefore, traffic calming measures) more than a man (or woman) driving during rush hour to arrive on time for an important meeting.
- Physical requirements: from the height at which infrastructure is installed (as women, on average, tend to be shorter than men) to accessing sanitary facilities.
- Safety concerns: As reported by the European Institute on Gender Equality, “women are more concerned than men about their safety while travelling. For example, women prefer not to travel at night, when lighting is poor, for fear of physical and/or sexual assault. Similarly, overcrowded public transport can increase the risk of sexual harassment,” influencing the travel choices women make.
- Participation in the labour market: At the European level, 67% of women are currently in employment, whereas men’s employment stands at 79%. In other words, there is a gender employment gap of 12%2. In the transport system, only 22% of the workforce are women – most of them in administrative positions with less than 5% working as pilots, seafarers and track or train drivers3. In the case of Andalusia, 17% of the workforce in land transport are women4.
- The 2019 Report on violence against women working in transport, based on a survey of European transport workers, highlights alarming evidence of high levels of violence against women at work across Europe. Twenty-five percent (25%) of the women interviewed believe that violence against women is a regular occurrence in the transport sector, and 26% believe that harassment is considered ‘part of the job’ in the transport sector.
Addressing these issues is key for the Regional Government of Andalusia and the European Investment Bank. The Andalusian legal framework, through its Law on the Promotion of Gender Equality5, considers the gender equality component in transport system planning.
“Women’s talent and ability are key to achieve our commitments with the economic recovery, sustainable development and the transition to carbon neutrality,” says Marifran Carazo, Minister of Infrastructure Development for the regional government of Andalusia. “To continue breaking the glass ceilings is not only fair, but also our obligation in pursuing a stronger society. Our right to equality does not lie in the fact that we can be brave, capable or competitive, but in the mere fact of being human.”
From the European Investment Bank perspective, gender equality is one of the core values of the European Union, and a key objective of the Sustainable Development Goals.
“Gender equality is a core principle of the European Union, but it is not yet a reality,” said Ursula von der Leyen. “In business, politics and society as a whole, we can only reach our full potential if we use all of our talent and diversity. Using only half of the population, half of the ideas or half of the energy is not good enough,” she said
In 2016, the EU bank approved the first EIB Group Strategy on Gender Equality and Women’s Economic Empowerment. The Gender Action Plans that followed guide the implementation of the strategy. On top of this, the European Investment Bank recognises the importance of addressing gender considerations in any project it supports.
“Women are an essential part of the climate solution: they are more likely to start sustainability-focused businesses, to improve energy efficiency and invest in renewables,” says EIB President, Werner Hoyer. “Yet, despite the significant positive impact they can make, women face substantially more difficulties in accessing financing for their investment activities. This is where the EIB can make a difference.”