Women still ‘overlooked’ in transport sector–ADB

EFFORTS to make the transportation sector more safe and inclusive need to be accelerated as women remain “overlooked” in this sector, according to experts from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

In an Asian Development Blog, ADB Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department Senior Transport Specialist Alexandra Pamela Chiang and Social Development Specialist Prabhjot R. Khan said to this day, transportation remains to be a male-dominated sector.

They said only 10 percent of the workforce in the transport sector is composed of women. Further, globally, only 19 percent of public service leadership and 18 percent of staff in infrastructure ministries are composed of women.

“Transport planners need to develop services that are accessible, safe, inclusive, and affordable for all users, particularly for women, who have historically been overlooked,” the authors said.

“Women make up half the world but they have marginal influence over transport development in most developing countries. We need to change this in order to improve transport services (for) everyone,” they also said.

Apart from employment opportunities, the ADB experts said, the lack of access to transportation reduces women’s participation in the workforce by 16.5 percent. This, the authors said, was based on data from the International Labour Organization.

Chiang and Khan also said women do not own as many private vehicles as men and many of them travel in off-peak hours. These contribute to women feeling unsafe when using public transport.

“There are many faces of women. She could be a leader, worker, mother, caregiver, home-maker, combinations of these or much more. We need to focus on that throughout the design of transport projects and services,” they said.

In order to improve the plight of women in terms of transportation, Chiang and Khan said there should be a smooth integration of formal and informal transport networks to allow women to move their products or to commute from their homes to the workplace.

Informal transport networks, the authors said, are those who do not have permits to operate but are useful means of transport for women and other poor travellers.

They said these types of transportation are preferred since women and poor communities do not always have access to formal transportation or own vehicles.

Further, Chiang and Khan said there is a need to ensure personal safety when taking public transport. This means there is a need to design for all through proper lighting, removing blind spots and making pedestrian routes more visible.

The authors also said countries must take into consideration gender inclusive transportation by taking into account women’s mobility patterns and providing them access to safe transportation options.

Lastly, the experts said there is a need to ensure physical accessibility to transportation systems. This will make public transportation more convenient for women and their dependents to move from place to place.

“A shift away from focusing largely on construction of physical infrastructure is needed, to consider transport as an enabler of services. This should result in a combination of physical and non-physical interventions, such as policies and reform,” Chiang and Khan said.

They also urged transport planners to move beyond “cookie cutter gender designs” and focus on user-needs. They must also employ sex-disaggregated data and innovative technology to improve women’s mobilty.

This includes making it accessible for women to be part of transportation systems worldwide by removing stereotypes and policies that disincentivize womem’s professional development and opportunities for leadership.