The lacking number of women working in transport is an underlying issue, under scrutiny by the European Commission. According to a 2016 study of the Directorate General for Mobility and Transport, only 22% workers of the transport sector are women, whilst the rail and road sector have both the most unbalanced number, with overall 85% of men workers1. Besides, there is also a very strong imbalance between the types of employee profiles within each sector. In the rail sector, the share of women amounts to 60% in the human resources field but only to 3% are among drivers2. Several attempts have been made to raise awareness on the situation of women in the rail sector, such as the joint CER –ETF –EIM coordinated action: “WIR – Women in Rail” project. Given the current importance of gender balance, women now more than ever are crucial to the rail sector work force.
Elisabeth Werner, Director of Land Transport, DG Move highlighted: “For rail, as for any other sector, the same logic is true: you cannot achieve 100% performance if you don’t use the skills of 100 % of the population and if you don’t address the needs of 100% of your customers. The smarter our transport system becomes, the better the chances for Women in transport. Digitalisation and automation of rail: we’re coming!”
MEP Clair Moody (Member of ITRE and FEMM Committee) further emphasized: “We need women involved in all parts of our economy, and rail is no exception to this. Just 15% of the UK’s rail industry workforce are women, with only 6% of the UK’s train drivers being women. I want to see more women train drivers, women engineers, and women throughout the rail industry.”
EU Commissioner for Mobility and Transport, Violeta Bulc, and Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender balance Věra Jourová are currently working on a policy to attract more women to the rail sector. With the initiative “Women in Transport”, launched in 2016 by the Commission, and Horizon’s 2020 specific gender program, women’s participation is expected to increase at all levels of Research and Innovation, as well as in decision-making, in order to reach the target of 40% of the under-represented sex in panels and groups, and 50% in advisory groups by 20203.
For that purpose, EESC President Georges Dassis and Commissioner Violeta Bulc officially launched on 27 November the ‘EU Platform for change – Women in Transport’. The aim of the Platform is to increase female employment and equal opportunities in the transport sector, and enable stakeholders to highlight their specific initiatives in favour of gender equality and to exchange good practices. During the launch conference, the Declaration on ‘Equal opportunities for women and men in the transport sector’ has been signed among many by Commissioner Violeta Bulc, Kadri Simons (Estonian Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure), MEP Karima Delli and Carlo Borghini (Executive Director of Shift2Rail).
Commissioner Violeta Bulc explained: “Only 22% of transport workers are women. There is a huge potential for the sector to improve equal opportunities and I am excited that companies and organisations agree on this and are committing themselves to the increase of female employment. By engaging women and men together towards gender equality we will ensure that our societies will flourish at all levels.”
With 50% female staff, Shift2Rail welcomes and supports the initiative. With its Members Shift2Rail commit to continue promoting equality between men and women and uphold the values set out in the declaration. In Carlo Borghini’s own words: “In Shift2Rail we should focus not only on the admin level but also on operational staff to reach a true gender balance”.
Furthermore, to support women’s employment in Transport, Francesca Aceto, the Chairwoman of “SNCF au Feminin” emphasized:
“As Chairwoman of SNCF au Féminin, I am committed to support women and men who want to act for a better gender balance in our company. We train our members to achieve a natural and respectful leadership, and mutual support with mentoring programs are encouraged in our network. We want women to be empowered and to be able to drive their carriers with self-confidence. At the same time, we act to change the work organization and HR policies each time they are a barrier to gender balance.”
Even though there is still a lot to be done, continuing to invest into women from an early age, providing equal opportunities and increasing female employment in all modes of Transport through company-based measures will bring an immense advantage not just to the European Transport sector, but Europe as a whole.