Filling in knowledge gaps on gender equality in transportation

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Female commuters on a bus in Mumbai, India. Photo: Van J/Flickr
Photo: Van J/Flickr

Perhaps you have noticed that in some places most public transport users are women—and that most car or motorcycle users are men—or that, in other places, very few women and girls can be seen in the public space. Most women in the world find it harder to travel than men. As a result, they have fewer opportunities, and when they do travel, they face more mobility barriers than men in accessing and using transport.

If women had full equality with men in choosing and using transport, they would be able to better determine and act on their life choices, such as accessing health and education for themselves and their children and securing desired jobs. This would enable them to fully exercise their right to use the public space, with a significant positive impact on the world economy and on sustainable and low carbon transport.


The economic and environmental benefits of inclusive transport

Gendered mobility barriers have a significant impact on a country’s economic growth potential. Globally, only 49 percent of women participate in the workforce, compared to 75 percent of men.  As an increasing number of recent studies confirm, mobility barriers can significantly hinder women’s access to income-generating opportunities.  For example, the 2017 report of the International Labour Organization (ILO) identified the lack of transport as the greatest challenge to female labor force participation in developing countries, reducing the probability of women participating in the labor force by an estimated 16.5 percent. A McKinsey Global Institute report finds that in a “full potential” scenario in which women play an identical role in labor markets to that of men, as much as US$28 trillion could be added to global annual GDP by 2025, a 26 percent increase.

While it may not be immediately intuitive, addressing gendered mobility barriers is also an environmental imperative and contributes to transport decarbonization efforts. Transport is one of the leading contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, and investing in sustainable systems implies moving away from supporting private motoring to a focus on using public transport, walking, and cycling. This is even more important now when national and local authorities are prioritizing green transport in their Covid-19 recovery plans. Failure to include women’s needs and voices in transport design, planning and operations is a missed opportunity to build back better and accelerate action towards gender equality and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


An issue too long invisible

Although the transport sector embeds multiple gender inequalities, these inequalities seem to be invisible to many policy makers, transport planners and service providers. This is due in part to lack of a fuller understanding of the association between women’s mobility, economic development of economies and sustainable transport.

To fill this knowledge gap, the World Bank and UN Women have jointly prepared a self-paced e-learning course on Gender Equality in Transportation.  It provides an understanding of the issues that make the sector “gender-blind,” and therefore unable to consider the needs of its diverse range of users, women and girls in particular. It also looks at difficulties women face in getting jobs and climbing the career ladder in the transport sector—a sector dominated by a male workforce.

This is the first solid e-learning course available on this theme, and since the topic is still relatively new to many, the course emphasizes awareness raising—or “why” questions—although it also balances the learning material with operational “how” questions alongside examples of concrete interventions – designed to support the shift towards greater gender equality in the sector.

The course is open to anyone who wishes to deepen knowledge in this area. Transport planners, designers, policy makers and activists advocating for change will particularly benefit from this training.  No prior background in gender or transport is required.

No transport system can be effective if it ignores the needs of more than half of its users. We hope that this course will bring new understanding and help countries achieve ever more inclusive transport and mobility systems.

The course can be accessed here:


The course benefited from funding from the Republic of Korea, Ministry of Economy and Finance under the OLC’s Korea Program for Operational Knowledge.


Nato Kurshitashvili

Senior Gender Specialist

Karla Gonzalez Carvajal

Practice Manager, Transport, Europe

Clemencia Muñoz Tamayo

Head of Training Centre, UN Women

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