Women and Transport

Women and Transport


K Hamilton, University of East London, UK



There is growing awareness of the social dimension of transport among transport professionals. However, there is little evidence that the gender differentiated impact of transport policy and provision has been taken seriously by transport planners and providers. This suggests that gender analysis is not seen as relevant to transport policy.

This paper will analyse the position of women in the social structure, it will focus on women?s use of transport and examine whether current transport provision meets women?s travel needs. It will also argue that despite the lack of attention paid to it, gender analysis is essential to transport policy and provision. Ignoring gender analysis may become less of an option as legislation has been drafted by the government which will introduce a gender equality duty for the public sector with the aim of eliminating unlawful sex discrimination and promote gender equality.

Gender issues within transport policy and provision come under a number of headings. These include social and economic factors, physical differences and power and vulnerability. Of prime importance in any analysis of women?s travel needs is the role that women play in society, in particular their responsibility for childcare and domestic work and caring for elderly sick or disabled relatives. The introduction of One Person Operation on buses and the reduction in staffing levels on public transport generally, presented major difficulties for women encumbered by shopping or travelling with small children.

Women have less free time than men; they also have, on average, less available financial resources than men.

Women are more likely than men to work part-time because of domestic and child-care commitments. Women?s employment has traditionally been concentrated in the lower-grade jobs, in the clerical, service and retail sectors. Women suffer from ?time poverty? therefore reliability of public transport is of paramount importance. To reduce travelling time and lessen the impact of unreliable services, women show a preference for staying in their own locality when taking up paid employment. However, this can be severely restricting in terms of the range of jobs available. Women returning to work following time spent caring for children are often faced with just two options, taking a low skill job for which they are overqualified or failing to get a job locally.

Women?s income still lags far behind that of men?s even after many years of equal pay legislation. Data for 2002-3 show that women?s income was only 53% of that of men?s. It also shows that there are twice as many male as female managers. Women, therefore, have on average, less financial resources than men and this has important implication for the relative affordability of both private and public transport.

There are well-documented average physical differences between men and women that have important implications for the design of vehicles and transport facilities. However, traditionally, little account has been taken of these physical differences. Women are of smaller height and have less physical strength on average than men. There is well documented evidence that women are up to 50% more likely to be injured in car crashes than men because of design considerations.

Women are more vulnerable to attack and harassment than men and women?s greater concern about personal security has important implications for design of both buses and trains, transport interchanges and waiting areas and for staffing levels.

Women have low mobility compared to men and poor access to transport. The case made in the available literature of women?s transport disadvantage is well established. The failure of transport policy makers, planners and providers to respond to this evidence places a heavy constraint on women, particularly women on low incomes as their dependence on public transport is greater. This gender bias creates difficulties in accessing a whole range of public services, in taking up paid employment and in engaging in a range of activities that are available to people generally. It also means that substantial hidden costs both in time and money, are being placed on women?s participation in society.


Association for European Transport