"Women and their mobility confront us with an urgently needed change of perspective. Quantitative and qualitative data inspire to make mobility more sustainable and inclusive." Lieke Ypma
Mobility is not gender-neutral, but instead shaped by the male perspective. On the one hand, social roles and gender stereotypes that we learn from an early age influence us in our choice of transport. This way typically male and female mobility patterns are created. On the other hand, only 22% of employees in the German transport sector are women. A technical - and stereotypical male - point of view therefore dominates mobility planning.
Women use mobility services and offerings in a different way than men do. They have other needs and requirements:
Even though men are increasingly involved in family care, women still do most of the unpaid care work. Caring for people usually means: running errands and accompanying people. As a result, demands on the accessibility of infrastructure are higher. Women often combine a paid job with unpaid care work, which means they build tripchains in order to take care of everything they have to do.
Women still earn significantly less money than men. For a variety of reasons, they have poorer access to resources such as time, money, education and technology as men.
Not to be neglected is the specific body experience women have when they are on the go. For example, many women are worried to be assaulted when they use public transport at night.
These are just some of the reasons why there are differences in the movement patterns and mode of transport used by women compared to those of men. From this we can draw conclusions for the design of sustainable mobility. Looking at mobility needs of women benefits all people with mobility needs other than pure commuting from home to work. Looking at female mobility allows us to recognize underlying structures of our mobility system and develop solutions that are good for everyone - not just for women.
People who do care work often travel in chains instead of simple commuting. This means that they make several stops on the way home from work, for example as at the care facility, at the supermarket and at the child's sports club. These stops are often in the immediate vicinity of home. Accordingly, women and people who do care work are more dependent on close-knit networks of footpaths and cycle paths.
In their everyday mobility behavior, women have a smaller range than men. This is due, among other things, to the care work carried out in the residential area. As a result, women are more likely to choose jobs in the local area in order to be able to do the unpaid work. Men drive twice as far as women on average due to the longer commutes. In rural Austria, 20% of women find it difficult to get a job because of this, versus 13% of men.
2. Shorter distances close to home
In most families with a car, it is used by men more often in everyday life. If available, the second car is usually available to the woman. According to the German Federal Motor Transport Authority, 62% of the cars in Germany are registered on the mens name and only 38% on the womens name. At the same time, in Germany 53% of public transport users are women - worldwide the figure is as high as 66%.
3. More public transport - less car
Women have high demands on mobility and rarely have access to a car. That is why they often travel multimodally. Depending on the purpose of the trip, they use the most suitable means of transport: on foot to go shopping, with the children by car and to the office by bus or train.
4. More multimodal
People who combine unpaid work with a paid job have a very complex everyday life mobility. Their demands on punctuality and reliability are very high and an important criterion when choosing their means of transport. The children have to be at school on time while an office appointment cannot wait either. Therefore, many current mobility services such as sharing services are unattractive for users, as their accessibility and reliability lacks behind.
5. Being mobile under time pressure
Women often feel unsafe in public spaces and in public transport. They are more likely to be in support of increased controls and security personnel in public transport. In order for women to feel safe, the last mile is also important: i.e. walking home from the subway station. Studies have shown that 1 in 3 women feel unsafe on the street.
6. Greater need for safety
Safety in vehicles has been tested on crash test dummies that have measurements and weight of average male bodies. Since the invention of such tests. Dolls with typically female attributes are often only used on the passenger side. This means that women or smaller people are at significantly higher risk in the event of an accident. If a woman is involved in a car accident, her risk of serious injury is 47% higher than that of a man, and the risk of moderate injury is 71% higher.
7. Higher risk of injury
Women use new mobility services less often than men. This includes car sharing or ride pooling, but also micro mobility offerings such as kick scooter sharing. These services are not practical for many women in everyday life. For example: Accompanying children is hardly or not at all possible on a kick scooter. Women and their needs are rarely included in the development of Mobility as a Service (MaaS) offerings. A clearly male-dominated market segment is evident. For example, only 18.75% of car sharing users are women.
8. Hardly any use of new mobility services
Many cities are planned and built in a star shape. The traffic connections lead from the residential areas in the suburbs to the workplace in the city center. This type of infrastructure is only ideal for a small group of mostly male commuters. In some cities, this thinking is already being turned around, for example with the concept of the superblocks in Barcelona or the 15min city in Paris.
9. City of men
10. Priority: car traffic
The car and its associated infrastructure are often privileged at the cost of all other road users. For example, car lanes are prioritized when clearing snow in Germany - although the risk of accidents and the strain for pedestrians and cyclists on uncleared paths is much greater. In Karlskoga, Sweden, the sidewalks were given priority over the busy roads when clearing snow. The number of accidents involving pedestrians has since then decreased significantly. Although the cost of cleaning remained the same, the cost to the health system was reduced significantly. The new prioritization has therefore had positive effects on society as a whole in terms of health and finance.
Mobility for everyone requires diverse perspectives
We can all benefit from diverse perspectives on mobility. To create inclusive offers, we need user-centered mobility planning based on correctly collected data. Much of this data has been known for a long time, but is not given sufficient attention in implementation. Criteria for participation can help ensure diversity. We also achieve diverse perspectives if we focus on diversity amongst all stakeholders.
In the end, society as a whole will benefit. If we really create truly user-centric mobility services and offerings, we ensure social participation, basic existence and social justice.
The ten facts presented show only a small part of reality. Women are not a homogeneous group, but very different in their needs. By including female perspectives, we can draw attention to these differences in human mobility needs.
Illustrations by Heloise Villoteau
Women are not a vulnerable user group just because they do not meet male standards. When developing mobility offers, gender and diversity must be taken into account right from the start.
Director of Human-Centered Innovation
VORN Strategy Consulting
We can only develop innovative and sustainable mobility solutions that benefit everyone if we understand the individual needs of each user.
Capturing the Characteristics of Car-Sharing Users: Data-Driven Analysis and Prediction Based on Classification, March 2020, Journal of advanced transportation 2020(6):1-11.