Women in Nordic Intelligent Transport Systems: Survey results

On 7 March, EIT Urban Mobility and Trivector Traffic held a webinar and online workshop following the kick-off of the Women in Nordic Intelligent Transport Systems (WIN-ITS) to present the results of a survey on gender diversity in the ITS sector.

Despite often being considered a front-runner in gender equality, the Nordic and Baltic region still faces challenges when it comes to gender equality in the ITS sector. “[In Denmark], we have the false illusion that we have solved the inequality issues. This means that people are very reluctant or even opposed to discussing it, both [about] men and women. That is one of the challenges — that lack of understanding” said Marianne Weinreich, consultant and founder of Weinreich Mobility

The previous WIN-ITS workshop resulted in a survey to investigate and collect data on gender diversity among organisations that work with ITS in the Nordic and Baltic region. Trivector Traffic and EIT Urban Mobility conducted the survey with the help of the ITS organisations involved in WIN-ITS. 

Some organisations surveyed stated that “gender doesn’t matter” and “we don’t have the gender problem here [regarding data]. All data is for people, not gender”, which at first glance suggests there are no gender differences in the ITS sector, but research has shown different results, which were confirmed in the survey.  

Women in ITS: Our findings

It is often assumed that gender balance, for example in decision-making bodies, ensures gender equality. However, balanced gender representation does not automatically guarantee equal outcomes. Typically, masculine norms and values in leadership, such as top-down approaches or economic growth thinking, are prominent even among women in leadership roles, suggesting that these norms have been internalised to become synonymous with or necessary for good leadership. Anna Clark, Head of Area Digitalisation at Trivector Traffic, emphasised, “We all work within norms and need to recognise these biases.” 

Researchers, industry leaders and representatives of ITS organisations discussed the results of the survey, as well as possibilities for continued collaboration through future projects and networking. 

Some organisations surveyed state that they have no gender issues. Although more than half of the organisations are working towards gender balance, it became clear that it is difficult to recruit women for positions in the ITS sector. Research shows that biased language in job advertisements and a lack of role models are two of the reasons for this problem.  

Download the fact sheet here.

How to tackle the gender gap

To tackle this issue, we need to focus on the bigger picture of what the members of the project call the “leaky pipeline”. The leaky pipeline is the career pathway of women where, for example, they leave due to maternity or men are favoured for leadership positions. It was emphasised in the workshop that collecting and interpreting data on this topic and making the leaks visible can contribute to more gender equality in the sector. 

Gender equality is also a question of how we approach the topic, talk about it and raise awareness. “Gender is not just about women. It’s about men and women”, said Weinreich.  

Participants at the workshop noted that the topic of gender equality is often seen as too academic for the public, and suggested moving away from numbers and data towards more storytelling about what inequality means for individuals, therefore making the consequences more visible and relatable.  

Changes are also needed in the way we collect data about transport systems. Lasse Schelde, Political Chief Consultant at IDA noted that travelling time is the main economic indicator measured, but other factors like the feeling of personal safety – which might be more of an issue for women than for men – are rarely taken into account in cost-benefit analyses of transport models and planning.   

“We need to collect data for different groups” said Clark, “and think about how the data can be used to achieve an equitable outcome.”  

What’s next?

The future of the WIN-ITS project was also discussed at the workshop. In order to achieve an impact, long-term collaborations, a network for women in ITS and the exchange of knowledge will be explored.  

The WIN-ITS project is organised by EIT Urban Mobility and Trivector Traffic, who co-fund the project along with the Nordic Council of Ministers and other project parties.