Gender Inequality Frustrating the Transport Sector’s Net-Zero Targets; Study

The transport sector’s goals of net zero carbon emissions are being threatened by gender inequality and a lack of diversity in the workforce, a recent study suggests. A new report by the International Transport Forum (ITF), supported by the FIA Foundation, has investigated the relationship between gender equality and climate change in the transport sector, to create new policies guiding companies and countries to reach 2050’s low carbon targets whilst tackling gender inequality.

This sector specific study into the role of gender focused on results of one-to-one interviews of individuals from four ITF member countries and two ITF Corporate Partnership board members. The aim of the study was to construct policies to instigate action for both countries and companies to benefit gender equality and decarbonising transport, predominantly based on gender behaviours.

Interview responses found that action needs to be taken to incorporate a gender dimension into transport decarbonisation plans, in addition to increasing the gender balance in the transport workforce. This comes after the discovery that gender is hugely influential on travel behaviours but is not represented in many current policies.

Indeed, transport mode choice, vehicle choice, travel distance and time of travel (affecting congestion and therefore emissions) all vary depending on gender, due to division of employment, household and caregiving responsibilities – more so than other factors such as age or income, regardless of development level. Women also tend to travel shorter distances, in off-peak hours and undertake more non-work-related trips, whilst being 26% more likely to use public transport than men.

In response to the findings, guiding principles have been designed to benefit the sector and include policies such as ‘strengthening awareness of the gender’, ‘enhance women’s participation and leadership in the transport workforce’ and ‘ensure budget processes provide incentives for gender-based carbonising transport policies’.

The introduction of these guiding principles follows a finding that only 15 out of 25 respondent countries include gender aspects in impact or risk assessments, in transport policy, or in part of their development transport plans. Researchers also found that current governance structures and institutional capacity still hinders the fusing of gender equality and transport decarbonisation policies; factors which are restrained by a lack of capacity within governmental bodies and insufficient funding. This lack of integration and inadequate resources is present in both developing and developed countries.

Speaking about the report, the ITF Secretary-General, Young Tae Kim, commented: “we cannot address climate change without decarbonising transport. And we cannot make our mobility sustainable without addressing the gender imbalance in how we design and use transport”.

Behavioural differences among genders have been found in vehicle purchase choice. Indeed, studies show women tend to choose smaller, more fuel-efficient cars and 80% of women hold decision making power when purchasing the family car.

Currently, the transport sector is off track to reach its net zero carbon targets. With transport contributing to nearly a quarter of global carbon dioxide emissions, which are only predicted to increase as transportation demand grows, a new consistent and holistic approach to transport decarbonisation is essential, and such an approach must adequately incorporate, and have regard to, a gender dimension.

Unfortunately, the sector is widely considered to have inadequate gender inclusive services, infrastructure, and systems. Research suggests that the unsustainable state of the sector could be attributed to the lack of gender diversity in its workforce and that transport and climate action cannot advance without the full participation and inclusion of women. Synergies need to be created between the two issues if we are to progress.

Leadership in this industry has traditionally been dominated by males, even though women in leadership positions have been proven to be more considerate of social and sustainable impacts (such as climate change and welfare) when making business-decisions.

In both public and private sectors, women have shown to be vigorous agents for introducing different norms, knowledge, and experience. Research by Wei-Shiuen and Acker suggests that an increase in women’s participation in the transport sector (where currently women only constitute 17% of the global transport workforce) would accelerate the venture to a zero-carbon sector, meeting the decarbonising transport goals of 2050, as well as improving gender equality.

Moreover, like other labour-intensive sectors, the transport industry is challenged by widespread labour shortages, making it ever more important for the industry to become more attractive, open, and equal for prospective employees. Invariably, more women are needed in the transport sector.

To achieve this, governments and public bodies across the world must actively encourage women to specialise in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and maths), and provide more attractive and inclusive vocational, professional, and academic training. This, in addition to the implementation of regional, national, and local policies which further policies and recommendations found in the Gender Action Plan, will help ensure that the transport sector can meet its operational requirements, and its net-zero targets.