POLIS kicks off its Women's History Month 2024 campaign!

Women's History Month 2024 is already here! To celebrate it, POLIS kicks off an exciting campaign today, International Women's Day, running all March. This year's theme, #InvestInWomen, highlights the crucial role of promoting gender equality in mobility for a sustainable future.

The time to act is now. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2023, at the current rate of progress, it will take 131 years to reach full gender parity. And when it comes to the transport sector, despite recent efforts, there is still a long way to go: women continue to be outnumbered by men in senior leadership positions (23%), constitute a mere 16.8% of the global transport workforce, and just 22% in the European Union.  

The 2024 theme for International Women's Day, #InvestInWomen, serves as a poignant reminder of our collective responsibility to invest in women, ensuring they are given the opportunity to play a central role in shaping and achieving a sustainable future for all. As we continue to grapple with the ongoing climate crisis, the United Nations reminds us that "gender equality remains the greatest human rights challenge. Investing in women is a human rights imperative and cornerstone for building inclusive societies."

It is clear — without gender equality, there is no sustainable mobility transition. At POLIS, we have made it our responsibility to join fellow leaders in elevating this issue to the top of the mobility agenda, recognizing its urgency and highlighting the need for targeted action on the ground.


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Bridging the gap: defining targeted actions for a gender-equal workforce 

Female professionals have made invaluable contributions in the transport, infrastructure, and mobility fields: last year, we shed light on several women in leadership positions from our POLIS family who have made remarkable progress, not just on gender specifically, but across the entire mobility spectrum 

However, a significant lack of female representation remains, especially in STEM-related roles, and has proved to be a pervasive challenge within the sector. To address this issue, we created a comprehensive toolkit for targeted action on the ground in our report for the Sustainable Urban Mobility for All (SuM4All) Gender Working Group. The insights from the report highlight the pressing need for fundamental changes to inspire more women to pursue careers in transportation. By identifying five key barriers to women’s ability to enter and flourish in the transport sector and five entry points for action, the toolkit strives to present effective strategies for fostering a truly inclusive environment in transport. 

Rethinking mobility: SMCs take charge! 

When it comes to mobility and urban planning, the specific needs of women are often insufficiently considered. However, small and medium-sized cities (SMCs) have been paving the way with a range of initiatives to identify and challenge the ways mobility ignores and further marginalises women.  

Last year, our Just Transition Webinar series joined forces with our Small and Medium-sized Cities (SMC) Platform to unveil some of their pioneering strategies. Cities of the Northern Netherlands and POLIS member Groene Metropoolregio Arnhem Nijmegen combined efforts to commission research into the main obstacles to gender mainstreaming in their cities, and what solutions may be on hand. Their findings revealed a distinct lack of facilities and services for women, as well as how inadequate lighting and walking infrastructure drastically reduce women’s feelings of safety at nighttime. They also found the importance of gender training in an organisation for the effective implementation of gender mainstreaming. 

The City of Umeå's approach was in turn to redesign spaces considering safety and inclusivity, such as having broader, more well-lit tunnels. The city's use of gender-disaggregated transport data revealed differing travel patterns between men and women, leading to targeted campaigns and more gender-equitable mobility planning.  

Gendered mobility patterns: the importance of data 

Acknowledging, understanding, and designing for gendered mobility needs is no easy task; and without accurate and timely data on gendered travel patterns, safety, and how characteristics such as sexuality, race, income, and ability intersect these experiences, it is just impossible. 

That is why we asked leaders from across the entire global mobility spectrum to join us in calling for better data on gendered transport patterns and experiences. Evelyn Regner, Vice President of the European Parliament; Ruth Lopian, Equality Coordinator at European Commission; Jim Walker, Director of Walk21 Foundation; Kalpana Viswanath, Co-Founder at Safetipin; Sheila Watson, Deputy Director of FIA Foundation, and many others shared with us their thoughts and visions on the importance of gendered mobility data and how it is fundamental for designing our cities and transport services to serve the needs of all, including women.  

What's next? A month full of surprises!

There is still a considerable journey ahead of us. Fostering gender equality in transport is an ongoing commitment, and it requires all our attention if we are to make the transition to a just, inclusive, safe, and equitable urban mobility. Investing in women, elevating their diverse perspectives, and designing our infrastructure to meet their needs are all essential steps: and as change is afoot, we must keep pressing to double down on these efforts if we are to make this sustainable future for all a reality.

Throughout this month, we will be using the POLIS communication channels to highlight our diverse efforts on this topic. What can you expect?

We will organise an exciting webinar on gender equity in urban transport, featuring panellists from leading cities. Titled 'Embracing gender equity in urban transport', it will explore strategies for inclusive policies and practices. Do not miss this chance to learn from leaders driving positive change - join us on March 27, 2024, from 11:00 am to 12:00 pm (CET)!

Find out more and register at this link.

But that is not all - we will also have a a thorough interview with courageous organisations discussing gender and safety, insights into actions taken by POLIS members, and more! Stay tuned!