Why gender equality is missing from transport planning

Emma Frid Eriksson
Emma Frid Eriksson. Photo: Private

Why is the progress with gender equality and diversity so slow in transport planning? What are the obstacles and what are the driving forces? The answers to these questions are given in two studies by Emma Frid Eriksson – one of which also earned her a prize on International Women's Day.

In the study, "Gender equality and diversity perspectives in the transport sector", the former Linköping University student and intern at the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute (VTI) examines barriers to and enablers for gender equality and diversity in municipal and regional transport planning. The background is the 'gender gap', whereby transport and traffic solutions have historically been planned as a rule by men for men, with a strong focus on commuting to and from work, among other things.

Survey respondents are officials working with transport planning and/or gender equality in five Swedish municipalities and four regions. The results are based on the work experiences of the individual interviewees and cannot be generalised to the organisations as a whole.

The interviews reveal that the gender equality perspective is held back by factors such as the lack of knowledge, and the lack of good examples, legislation and funding. Above all, the lack of legislation is highlighted as being of particular importance.

"Gender equality and diversity need to be included in the same way as the child perspective is in other legislation. That would make it possible for officials to act on the basis of the rules and regulations in force," says Emma Frid Eriksson, who after graduation works as a traffic planner in Linköping Municipality.

When it comes to knowledge, traffic and transport planning is more complicated than simply choosing the shortest route between A and B. Or, for that matter, investing in public transport due to the fact that many women normally travel by bus. Why not route the road to C instead – and how is the choice of transport mode linked to the availability of a car and the distribution of income in the household? Questions like these are often not addressed at all.

"At the same time, such questions often arouse both good will and interest. Nobody denies its importance, but in practice, priority is normally given to other perspectives," says Emma Frid Eriksson.

In her master's thesis, "The gender equality and diversity gap in the transport sector", she takes the investigation one step further and examines whether a special work method, GaDAP, can introduce gender equality and diversity into traffic and transport planning. The answer is 'perhaps', the tool can increase knowledge and drive forward their introduction, but only up to a point. The problems of knowledge gaps, institutional barriers and lack of policy directives then remain.

This paper has been selected as the best gender equality paper by the Swedish Network for Equality in the Transport Sector). The prize is awarded on International Women's Day on 8 March.

"Great! A lot of work was put into the paper and it feels great that it has been recognised and considered to contribute to the research field," says Emma Frid Eriksson.

GaDAP stands for Gender and Diversity Action Plan and is a methodological tool developed by VTI researchers Malin Henriksson and Lena Levin.

Text: Mikael Sönne

Translation: CBG

Gender equality and diversity perspectives in the transport sector: case-studies of Swedish municipalities and regions External link.

The gender equality and diversity gap in the transport sector: could the GaDAP-tool help and push systematic implementation? External link.

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