An interview with Violeta Bulc
Achieving gender equality between women and men remains a major challenge across Europe, despite being a founding principle of the Union, says the European Commissioner for Transport.
Why is it important to tackle the gender imbalance in the transport sector?
Only societies that know how to engage their entire capacity and potential can hope for a sustainable future – this is what drives my engagement in this topic. Despite progress and an increasing realization among all transport stakeholders that the sector can no longer be ‘exclusively for men’, currently only 22% of all transport workers are women. This is well below the figure for the overall economy at about 46%.
Besides employment, the gender pay gap remains a challenge. Across all sectors, women still earn on average 16% less than men in the EU. In addition, we continue to face fewer and slower promotions and difficulties in accessing board positions. For instance, in the aviation sector, less than 5% of pilots are women. In other words, there are still important challenges and barriers for women to access employment in the transport sector that need to be tackled. Equality between men and women is one of the European Union’s founding values and tackling the challenges faced by women in the sector has been at the heart of my mandate.
What is it going to take for more women to join the transport sector?
There are some core aspects on which we need to concentrate our efforts to make the sector appealing to women. Improving working conditions could significantly contribute to encouraging women to start and to transfer their skills and continue their careers in the sector. It means putting in place measures to prevent violence, and to ensure adequate work-life balance; personal development and equal-pay. Ensuring an adequate working environment also starts with simple things: for instance, ensuring that all workplaces are equipped with separate toilets and dressing rooms, all the way to appropriate maternity leave arrangements.
In the past year, we have seen fantastic initiatives and concrete measures taking place across Europe towards gender equality in transport.
However, putting in place legislative measures is not enough. Enhancing the attractiveness of the transport sector also requires a change of mentalities to remove some well-established stereotypes. Try to be vocal especially on fresh opportunities that new technologies bring, like automated and high-tech solutions. They are a reality more and more. Raising awareness on the types of careers available, as well as on the reality of the workplace are important starting points. Nonetheless, changing mentalities also implies educational efforts and targeting children and young adults. Several of our partners have already developed projects that focus on educating young people (particularly girls) on technical, entrepreneurial and organizational professions. However, this will take some time and will only be possible if we witness joint efforts among all concer
What projects is the Women in Transport—EU Platform for change involved with and what progress or achievements have been made?
The Women in Transport—EU Platform for change is a joint initiative between the European Commission and the European Economic and Social Committee. We launched it in November last year, with the objective of connecting all transport stakeholders eager to see changes in the sector. Platform members commit to undertake specific actions to strengthen women’s employment in the sector. Our partners include all transport industries, trade unions, NGOs and media. A declaration to ensure equal opportunities to men and women in the sector has been signed by some key transport stakeholders – and remains available for further signatories online. The Platform is a fantastic tool to present the initiatives and projects of the signatories, share best practices, and encourage other stakeholders to take concrete measures to strengthen women’s employment and equal opportunities. In the past year, we have seen fantastic initiatives and concrete measures taking place across Europe towards gender equality in transport. Many of the signatories have focused their projects on education, developing toolkits for primary and secondary school teachers to fight gender stereotypes in transport. I invite all transport stakeholders to bring concrete actions in the EU Platform for change and to sign the Declaration.
How will more women in the workforce help transform the transport sector?
As more women start their careers or transfer to the transport sector from their existing careers, they bring with them experiences and skills at a time when the transport sector is widening and evolving. As the sector becomes increasingly people-centered, digitalized and service-oriented, it is important that companies and service providers mirror shifts among the workforce. The growth of digital jobs presents excellent opportunities for women to enter and develop within the sector. Ensuring equal opportunities means also ensuring diversity and the development of solutions that meet the needs of all people.
Across all sectors, women still earn on average 16% less than men in the EU.
How can improving the gender balance in the transport sector be beneficial to all?
Studies show that organizations with inclusive cultures have greater innovation and higher creativity. The most successful societies are those that maximize their intellectual human potential. In turn, we need to use all talents to ensure the prosperous future of the sector and society as a whole.