New study unveils persistent barriers for women in the transport sector

Posted: 25 May 2023 | | No comments yet

The new study emphasises the need for transformative change to address gender imbalance in the transport sector, highlighting the challenges that are often faced by female professionals, including gendered stereotyping, discriminatory workplace cultures and more.

New study unveils persistent barriers for women in the transport sector

Credit: FIA Foundation

A comprehensive global analysis of gender equity in the transport sector has revealed that women continue to face significant barriers when entering and working in the transportation industry. The research, conducted by the World Bank’s Sustainable Urban Mobility for All (SUM4All) initiative, POLIS Network and the FIA Foundation, sheds light on the challenges experienced by women at all levels of the sector.

According to the report, titled ‘Gender imbalance in the transport sector: A toolkit for change’, only 16.8% of the transport workforce worldwide consists of women. This figure drops to 5.5% in Arab States and 10% in Africa, while North America sees a comparatively higher representation of 29%. The study, which analysed existing data, conducted interviews and surveys, identified five key barriers contributing to the gender imbalance:

  • Persistent gendered stereotyping and occupational segregation, resulting in women being under-represented in STEM-based roles and driving positions
  • Discriminatory workplace cultures, including the risk of harassment and violence
  • Limited access to flexible working arrangements and childcare, hindering women’s ability to remain in the workforce
  • The presence of a glass ceiling that restricts career progression and leadership opportunities
  • The need for an intersectional approach to gender, acknowledging the interconnected issues of diversity encompassing racial, sexual and socio-economic equality.

While policy frameworks serve as a foundation for change, the report emphasises that transformative change must be driven by action at the leadership level. Organisations need to develop comprehensive and equitable employment systems and processes that go beyond policy to bring about tangible change.

Mobilising momentum to improve transport’s gender diversity

The study also highlights the persistent gender disparity at the political level, with only seven out of 64 International Transport Forum (ITF) member countries and 15.5% of European Union (EU) Member States having female ministers with transport portfolios. Interviews with women occupying leadership positions underscore the importance of gender equity at the highest levels and provide insights into breaking through the ‘glass ceiling’.

To support progress in addressing these issues, the report includes an accompanying tool kit featuring extensive case studies and practical recommendations for practitioners. The tool kit encompasses 25 case studies from various transport organisations worldwide, ranging from aviation to maritime to public transport. These resources aim to facilitate positive change within the sector and encourage diversity and inclusion.

“The lack of gender diversity, in particular, is apparent. While we have seen a growing recognition of the necessity for change, displayed vividly in this study, translating words into action has been far slower. Sustainable and inclusive transport services cannot be delivered without a more diverse workforce,” said Karen Vancluysen, Secretary General, POLIS.

Heather Allen, gender and sustainable transport expert and report author, said: “Our study shows that currently despite many policies being in place it remains predominantly masculine. This is partly due to a historical legacy of inflexible working practices and widespread stereotyping, so the sector needs to change from the inside out. Increasing the diversity of workforce will help the sector’s capacity to confront its significant skill shortages, as well as contribute towards its ambitions of sustainability, innovation and inclusivity.”