One of the highlights for me at Highways UK in November was the Women in Transport session, held on the Sub-national Transport Bodies Hub. The session was well attended, by women and men, and demonstrated a continued and growing commitment to promote diversity across the transport sector.
The reasons for engaging in this debate are compelling. Yes, it is absolutely right that everyone has fair access to career opportunities, career progression and to be heard with an equal voice at work. However, there is something more profound. We need to ensure that the transport system is designed in a way that meets the needs of everyone.
Policy makers and infrastructure providers inevitably- and despite the best of intentions- bring their own perspectives into decision making. Even when there is a pool of data, there remains a risk of unconscious bias in the way we interpret and design policy solutions to the evidence that we are reviewing. By having a workforce that better reflects the make-up of our society, we will be more capable of interpreting data robustly, creating solutions and investment decisions that meet the needs of the many.
We know from evidence and experience that women use private and public transport differently to men. Women tend to make shorter, more frequent trips, often carrying items or being accompanied by children.
In her recent publication, Invisible Women: Exposing the Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, Caroline Criado Perez points out that the nature of planning and designing a transport network is based on the needs of men. Criado Perez reports that men are more likely to have a direct, point-to-point daily journey than women and that globally, if a household owns a car, it is the men who dominate access to it.
Women, by contrast, are more likely to walk or use public transport, and the data shows that. Many of these trips are complicated, and part of a trip-chain through the day, with shorter trips, often by walking or cycling that can often not even be captured in the data.
For England’s Economic Heartland, one of our key priorities is to create a Transport Strategy that is reflective of the needs of people across the region. We have a wide variety of communities, with polycentric travel patterns, different expectations of their travel experience, and differing cost, time and digital barriers to travel. We are working with Experian’s Mosaic data to better understand the specific travel needs of communities across the entire Heartland region. The emerging data is presenting some inspiring results.
This is a huge step forward. But we need go further. We need to take the data available to us, and make sure that we are interpreting it not in the way that suits us, but in a way that reflects the needs of all of our members of society. That is why England’s Economic Heartland will be setting up an Influencers Group in 2020. The group will be formed of experts with a broad range of experience, perspectives and attitudes who can come together to review the Transport Strategy as it develops and ensure we are shaping an ambition and approach, at sub-regional level, that is genuinely relevant for people living here. If you are interested in joining and have some experience to bring, please get in touch (firstname.lastname@example.org).
About the Author
This post was written by Naomi Green. Head of Technical Programmes, England’s Economic Heartland