From women in transport to gender in transport: challenging conceptual frameworks for improved policymaking.

Author:de Madariaga, Ines Sanchez
Position:Entrenched Challenges - Report

Gender analysis provides a conceptual and methodological basis for developing new insights in research and policymaking in any field dealing with human interaction. The disciplines of the built environment are fields where gender-specific insight can significantly contribute to improved policymaking and professional practices, better incorporating the realities of all individuals. Recent developments in European science policy since 1999 have led to the integration of gender into the upcoming EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, known as Horizon 2020. Transport, energy, and climate change are societal challenges that are specifically targeted for research funding in Horizon 2020. These policy developments in science policy can provide the knowledge base for further integration of gender dimensions in specific policy fields, such as transport. While pioneering work in the transport field has already focused on women in transport, I argue for a full integration of gender in all dimensions of transport research. This article presents some conceptual innovations and critical analysis of ideas that have been taken for granted in the field of metropolitan transport. It argues for a full acknowledgment of the idea of a "mobility of care," and for a reevaluation of current overarching uses of notions such as "compulsory mobility." This would contribute to a needed rebalancing of the topics of care and employment as being equally important for transport policy.


The subject of women in transportation was first explored in the 1970s, with research undertaken on such topics as the role of gender in city planning and architecture. Four decades of research and teaching on women and gender in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere has allowed for potentially significant changes and advances in new fields of policymaking. The disciplines of the built environment--such as architecture, housing, transport, and urban planning--are some of the fields where new insights from gender analysis can contribute to better policymaking and increased quality of life for everyone. (1)

Recent developments in European science policy during the last decade have opened the way for the institutionalization of gender mainstreaming in European research. The main funding instrument for research in Europe, the recently approved Research Framework Programme known as Horizon 2020, which will be operational in January 2014, fully integrates gender as an important factor in research and innovation. (2)

After a brief presentation of these recent developments in European science policy, this article presents some insights in the specific field of urban and metropolitan transport, with concomitant implications for the interrelated policy areas of urban and regional planning. It uses gender as an analytical category to propose a new concept, the "mobility of care," coined by this author, and to challenge certain conceptualizations widely used in the field of transport, among them that of "compulsory mobility." (3) The mobility of care provides a framework for recognizing, measuring, making visible, giving value to, and properly accounting for all the travel associated with those care- and home-related tasks needed for the undertaking of everyday tasks. Although globally they tend to be performed mostly by women, as men increase their participation in these tasks, use of gender-aware concepts that integrate care concerns into transport planning will become more significant for both sexes.

The aim is to build a wider knowledge base of mobility patterns, behaviors, and needs, along with improved operational and policy concepts on which to base more equitable transport policies that would better respond to gender needs, thus benefiting both men and women. I will argue for the need to rebalance priorities in the transport agenda, moving from their current central focus on employment-related mobility towards an equivalent consideration and valuing of the travel requirements of care work. A full integration of gender dimensions at all stages and in all aspects of transport research and policy is needed.


In Europe, a number of steps have been taken in research policy, which will hopefully begin to impact transport research, as well as research in the various disciplines of the built environment. Gender mainstreaming became enshrined in European legislation in 1999 through its integration into the Treaty of Amsterdam, which amended the original Treaty of Maastricht by which the European Union was created. The Treaty of Amsterdam requires gender mainstreaming of all European policies, following the concept first proposed at the Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995.

Gender mainstreaming in European science began as early as 1999, when it was undertaken by the European Commission (EC). Under the mandate of Commissioner Edith Cresson, two organizations responsible for implementing gender mainstreaming were created: the Women and Science Unit at the very heart of the Directorate-General of Research, and the Helsinki Group, an assessment group for the Commission with government representatives from all member states and gender experts from universities. In 2001, the Commission published a preliminary report that provided for the first time a global, data-driven view of the position of women in science in Europe. (4) In the science policy arena, gender is now one of five priorities of the European Research Area as of July 2012. (5)

The series "She Figures, Statistics and Indicators on Gender Equality in Science," developed with the support of the statistical analysts in the Helsinki Group and published every three years since 2003, provides a good data source from a European perspective from which to devise and benchmark policy. (6) Additionally, some countries do produce specific publications with sex-disaggregated data and gender indicators of women and science, such as the "White Paper on the Position of Women in Science in Spain." (7)

An increasing number of European research studies have since been funded by the EC, and as a whole provide overarching evidence of the persistent inequalities between women and men, both in the public and private sectors. They also describe many of the policy initiatives undertaken by different member states and by individual institutions. (8) The EC has taken the lead in policy development. It included a pioneering provision for integrating gender dimensions in research within the Sixth Framework Programme, which required that "proposals should indicate whether, and how, sex and gender are relevant variables in the objectives and methodology proposed." (9) It funded gender and science training programs that have taken place throughout the continent. Crucially, it has set targets for the presence of women in the research program and in committees. It also recently created a funding scheme soliciting calls for proposals for the structural change of institutions.

More recently, the EC published two important reports that provide roadmaps for gender and science. The first, entitled "Structural Change in Research Institutions: Enhancing excellence, gender equality and efficiency in research and innovation," was written by a group of experts who were specifically appointed, and whom this author chaired (10) The report identifies five main sets of problems faced by research institutions and proposes structural change as the means to address them, so that decision making is more transparent; unconscious bias is removed from institutional practices and evaluation procedures; human resources management is modernized by considering gender dimensions; excellence is promoted through diversity; and research and innovation are improved by the integration of sex and gender analysis. (11) Its recommendations address the different interested stakeholders: member states, science institutions, European-wide organizations, gatekeepers of excellence, and the EC itself. It includes a selection of best practices from around the world.

The second document is the EU-U.S. Gendered Innovations in Science, Health and Medicine, Engineering and Environment Project, which develops practical methods of sex and gender analysis in these fields, and provides over twenty case studies as concrete illustrations of how sex and gender analysis leads to innovation. (12) This project provides practical means to stimulate the creation of gender-responsible science and technology through online-accessible material. Examples of gendered innovations include how sex and gender analysis has led to the development of pregnant crash test dummies that can be used to enhance safety in automobile design; the inclusion of men in osteoporosis research, leading to better diagnoses and treatments, since, in the past, osteoporosis was conceptualized as a disease of postmenopausal women; and to better understanding, diagnosis, and treatment of cardiovascular disease among women.

In order to build on these policy developments, the international COST network genderSTE (Gender, Science, Technology and Environment), which I chair, was launched in 2012. This collaborative initiative funded by the COST, the oldest European program for cooperation in science and technology, aims to better integrate gender dimensions in science and technology at three main levels: by promoting women's careers in science and technology through the structural change of institutions, as recommended by the EC; by promoting better integration of gender in the fields of science, research, and technology through the dissemination of existing knowledge on the topic, particularly from the EU-U.S. Gendered Innovations Project; and by identifying gender dimensions relevant to environment-related Horizon 2020 Grand Challenges and other urban EC initiatives, in the specific fields of city...

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