Gender Roles


Driver description
Interactions within the Social Domain
Interactions with the Economy Domain
Interactions with the Environment Domain
Interactions with the Technology Domain
Impacts on Mobility and Transport

Driver description

  • “Gender, based on the biological construct of male and female, differentiates economic and social roles and responsibilities. Gender is an integral part of the broader social context interacting with class, race, ethnicity, income, education, religion, and geographic location. Gender defines how men and women are expected to act, dress, and behave; this includes travel behavior and patterns. (Ref: CO_0163)
  • “The definition of gender roles and responsibilities varies from place to place and changes over time and between generations. This makes it difficult to assume an overriding general definition of roles and responsibilities.” (Ref: CO_0163)
  • “The lives of girls and women have changed dramatically over the past quarter century. Today, more girls and women are literate than ever before, and in a third of developing countries, there are more girls in school than boys. Women now make up over 40 percent of the global labor force. Moreover, women live longer than men in all regions of the world.” (Ref: CO_0161)
  • “Gender disparities still remain in many areas, and even in rich countries.” (Ref: CO_0161)
  • “Although women have entered the labor force in large numbers across much of the developing world in the past quarter century, this increased participation has not translated into equal employment opportunities or equal earnings for men and women. Women and men tend to work in very different parts of the “economic space,” with little change over time, even in high-income countries. In almost all countries, women are more likely than men to engage in low-productivity activities. They are also more likely to be in wage or unpaid family employment or work in the informal wage sector.” (Ref: CO_0161)
  • “Despite labour force participation, women continue to bear a disproportionate share of household work, and this uneven distribution of labour is implicated in the division of labour in the labour market and at home.” (Ref: CO_0165)
  • “In Spain, women account for more than 90 per cent of the total number of employees in this sector, domestic work representing the largest single area of female employment. Moreover, the employment rate in this sector has inverted its decreasing trends since 1994 and since the beginning of this decade has grown faster than the female employment rate in all other sectors. Belgium is estimated to have around 20,000 domestic workers, 89 percent of whom are women. In Austria, more than 95 percent of the 8,900 domestic workers officially accounted for in 2005 are female. In the Netherlands, 25 per cent of elderly persons are estimated to engage paid domestic help. In Italy, the National Institute for Social Security (INPS) calculated a total number of more than 460,000 employees in domestic work in 2006, 87.5 per cent of whom women and 73 per cent foreigners. Another recent Italian research confirming data produced by the Statistical Institute (ISTAT) claims that the actual number could largely pass one million workers.” (Ref: CO_0088)
  • “Greater gender equality can enhance productivity, improve development outcomes for the next generation, and make institutions more representative.” (Ref: CO_0161)

Interactions within the Social Domain

Population ageing

  • “Since 1980, women are living longer than men in all parts of the world. And, in low-income countries, women now live 20 years longer on average than they did in 1960.” (Ref: CO_0161)
  • “In the next 30 years, the number of people over 65 years of age will double and those over 80 will treble in the member and associate member countries of the European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT). It has also been highlighted that older people will increasingly expect to maintain the high level of mobility they have grown accustomed to previously, though this will be more difficult as they age. More people will retain their driving licences as long as possible and licence holding will be more prevalent amongst older people, especially older women.” (Ref: CO_0162)
  • “(...) even as one gets older the gender difference in travel patterns between men and women are maintained.” (Ref: CO_0162)
  • “In Germany also the differences in travel patterns between older men and women is clearly set out. The chart below sets out the travel differences between men and women over the age of 65. Women are bigger users of walking, public transport and travelling as a car passenger than men within this age group.” (Ref: CO_0162)
Figure 1‑20 Transport mode in Germany for men and women over 65 years old

Source: Women and Transport (Ref: CO_0162)

  • “In relation to elderly women, one theme that has been taken up is the tendency of elderly women to give up driving to a greater extent than their male counterparts.” (Ref: CO_0165)
  • “Elderly women form a distinct group facing mobility difficulties, since they will at some point begin to reduce their driving, lowering their mobility. Particularly elderly women living alone will be vulnerable, having few alternatives to driving.” (Ref: CO_0165)

Migration flows

  • “In Western Europe, as in many other parts of the world, domestic work has the characteristic of attracting a large and increasing number of female migrants. (...) They provide essential service to the countries of destination and contribute to the wealth of their aging societies and to the sustainability of their welfare and employment systems.” (Ref: CO_0088)
  • “In spite of migrant women generally showing a generally lower participation rate in the labour force compared to their male counterparts and female nationals, evidence show that an increasingly high share of these women find an occupation as a domestic or care worker. The majority of domestic workers in Europe are foreign born.” (Ref: CO_0088)
  • “In Germany, for example, the number of foreign women working as domestic workers rose by nearly 75 per cent between 1993 and 2003. In Spain and Greece, the number of women in this sector is reported to have multiplied by 11 and 6 times respectively over the same period. In France, half of the female immigrant workers and one out of three immigrants employed as low-skilled workers are reported to be in domestic work. The Italian National Social Security Institute (INPS) reports that 73 per cent of the total numbers of domestic workers in 2006 were foreigners, 87.5 per cent of whom were women. In general terms, migrant women are reported to be four times as many as native women in the household sector.” (Ref: CO_0088)
  • “Labour force participation rates for migrant women tend to be higher in Southern European countries, where migrant women are highly represented among domestic workers. These are the same countries where national women’s participation rate in the labour force has rapidly increased over the last decade. This could at least in part confirm the correlation between national women’s insertion into the labour market and the outsourcing of care work to migrant domestic workers.” (Ref: CO_0088)
  • “Today, women tend to migrate at a stage of their life when they have concluded their educational path and they have a family of their own who they provide for and support through their migration process.” (Ref: CO_0088)

Households structure and distribution

  • “Studies on women’s travel patterns suggest the importance of women’s domestic responsibilities for their travel patterns, and an important focus is married/single women with children (...) Embedded in women’s travel patterns are the transportation problems of their children. This means that if women continue to bear a disproportionate share of chauffeuring and other responsibilities, then travel differences will not disappear. Single mothers in particular are a very vulnerable group, even if they have moderate incomes. They face disproportionate pressure to alter their activities and travel patterns, because they are economically disadvantaged and because they have less assistance in balancing employment with household and childcare responsibilities.” (Ref: CO_0165)

Income structure and distribution

  • “Women are more likely than men to work as unpaid family laborers or in the informal sector. (...). Women entrepreneurs operate in smaller firms and less profitable sectors. As a result, women everywhere tend to earn less than men.” (Ref: CO_0161)
  • “Women's greater domestic responsibilities coupled with their weaker access to household resources have significant consequences for their transport and travel status. The lower the income of a household the more probable it is that women within that household will experience greater transports deprivations as compared with men.” (Ref: CO_0161)
  • “Poor women and men do not travel less; they just travel under more duress and in worse conditions. They lack real options and the ones available are usually under-resourced, undercapitalized, and over-utilized. Women are usually the last to have access to the most modern and expensive (higher status) forms of transport.” (Ref: CO_0163)

Car ownership

  • “Men are the first to use a vehicle in a household, and when possible to motorize. Women will use the vehicle that is left behind.” (Ref: CO_0163)
  • “In the richer countries, even poor people own a used car, whereas in a majority of developing countries, only a handful of the wealthiest can afford to own and maintain a car. When it comes to female vehicle ownership rates, the rates become even lower. About 75% of women in the United Kingdom have no or restricted access to a car, while with men it is only 15% with no or restricted access to a car.” (Ref: CO_0163)
  • “Car ownership and access to transport were associated with higher perceived quality of life. The effects of car ownership and access were independent of wealth. There was some evidence that the relationship between driving and quality of life was stronger for men than for women.” (Ref: CO_4006)


  • “(...) in most countries, women participate less in formal politics than men and are underrepresented in its upper echelons.” (Ref: CO_0161)
  • “Indeed as a profession, transport planners have failed to produce systematic methodologies which incorporate gender analysis for the purpose of urban development and planning. At present it would be fair to argue that there are no systematic gender inclusion procedures for transport either in terms of the training of professionals, in terms of the participation of users or in terms of the design and planning of transport systems, transport services and transport equipment.” (Ref: CO_0161)
  • “Decision-makers are still not sensitive enough to women’s transport needs and patterns. Multi-trip chains, buying groceries and accompanying services (children, elderly) are often still the duties of women. Therefore, multimodal transport services, nearby opportunities and children and youth-friendly transport facilities have to be designed to support women.” (Ref: CO_5006)

Change of lifestyle and values

  • “Women are more vulnerable users of public space in general and this affects how they use public space, including transport. (...) Women will change their transport behaviour and have their transport options constrained if they perceive urban transport systems or travel to be unsafe. Thus, women will make the decision not to travel at night, not to get out at a particular spot, to take a longer route home if it is safer.” (Ref: CO_0163)


  • “Gender gaps in primary education have closed in almost all countries. In secondary education, these gaps are closing rapidly and have reversed in many countries, especially in Latin America, the Caribbean, and East Asia - but it is now boys and young men who are disadvantaged. Among developing countries, girls now outnumber boys in secondary schools in 45 countries and there are more young women than men in universities in 60 countries.” (Ref: CO_0161)

Interactions with the Economy Domain


  • “Women now represent 40 percent of the global labor force, 43 percent of the world’s agricultural labor force, and more than half the world’s university students. Productivity will be raised if their skills and talents are used more fully.” (Ref: CO_0161)
  • “[In Europe] Over the period 2000 to 2010, female employment rose steadily from 57.3 % to 62.1 %, narrowing the gender gap. Considerable differences remain between Member States.” (Ref: CO_0197)
Figure 1‑21 Employment rate, by gender, EU-27

Source: Sustainable development in the European Union (Ref: CO_0197)

  • “Within the EU, marked disparities are found concerning female employment rates between the northern and southern European countries, ranging from 71% for women as a percentage of total population of working age (15–64) in Sweden to 39.6% in Italy (...).” (Ref: CO_0083)
  • “Women are underrepresented in transport” (Ref: CO_5019)
  • “The transport sector remains male-dominated; few women are employed in the sector except in travel service occupations (e.g. as travel agents). The great majority of transport drivers and operatives are male, as are those employed in vehicle trades (e.g. as car mechanics). Women are also under-represented in professional and managerial positions within the sector, or in transport-related public bodies; hence their influence over the decision-making process is also very limited.” (Ref: CO_0162)
  • “Gender considerations should also be taken into account, to facilitate women’s access to transport jobs.” (Ref: CO_0015)
  • “In several EU countries there is also room for higher female labour force participation which would require adaptations in the educational and child care systems allowing mothers to continue their careers.” (Ref: CO_6000)

Interactions with the Environment Domain

GHG mitigation

  • “Given the serious environmental impacts of mobility patterns in wealthy nations, not least in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, it is crucial to study mobility in the combined normative perspectives of gender mainstreaming and environmental sustainability.” (Ref: CO_0165)
  • “Polk (2003, 2004) compares men’s and women’s travel patterns as well as their attitudes towards environmental issues and willingness to change behaviour in Sweden. She draws on large-scale travel surveys and attitude surveys. Her results suggest that women were more environmentally concerned and more critical of auto-mobility than men were, that women were more positive towards proposals that reduce the environmental impact of car use and that women express more willingness to reduce their use of the car than men. In general, there are not large differences between men and women, however women consistently showed more support of ecological issues and were more prepared to participate in ecologically benign activities such as reducing car use.” (Ref: CO_0165)
  • “In her study Hjorthol (...) explores the cultural perceptions that men and women give to public and private means of transport, and she bases her study on a large-scale survey amongst inhabitants in Oslo, the capital of Norway. She shows how the two different types of transport have different cultural values with men and women. Women seem to be more positive than men towards public transport and believe that public transport gives them access when and where they want to travel. In contrast, men see the car as enabling freedom in time and space, and also the car is a masculine mastering project; men’s work with and maintenance of the car can be seen as an important arena for their identity. In contrast, women see the car in functional terms. These results suggest in parallel with Polk’s results that women’s cultural values of transport make them more conducive to using public forms of transport, and therefore they have potential for accommodating environmentally friendly transport practices.” (Ref: CO_0165)

Interactions with the Technology Domain

Technology development in general and innovation diffusion

  • “Use of technology is gendered however and data from the European Harmonised Time Use surveys show that men may view technology use as a hobby or leisure pursuit more than a utilitarian activity to aid activity scheduling, maintain social contacts or replace activities for which travel would be otherwise involved. This is shown in Figures below.” (Ref: CO_0162)
Figure 1‑22 Time Use of Computer games and other computing activity by gender across European States

Source: Women and Transport (Ref: CO_0162)

  • “Yet new informatics technologies are available which readily permit the capture and harnessing of gender data for transport and travel systems which better service women and most particularly low income women. Instead of standing and waiting with children at poorly serviced and poorly supervised unsafe bus stops, low income women could through new technology call demand responsive services to get them to hospitals in time with efficiency benefits for the overall urban system.” (Ref: CO_0162)
  • “Many EU supported research developments taken together show us a path through which the development of in-home communication technologies connected to the services of local public transport operators could help reduce the time poverty of low income women. In-home networked terminals have very low communications costs; they would permit women to make reservations, on both routine and crisis services, giving exact details of the journeys which they need to make to meet their survival needs.” (Ref: CO_0162)
  • “Tele-strategies are fast solutions to women's time problems: women's local constraints can be greatly ameliorated by access to the information highway. Functions which could only previously be performed by being physically present in dispersed urban locations can now be accomplished by communicating through information technology: reserving medical appointments and cancelling them with the immediate print out of the information in hand; electronic banking and money transfers; electronic shopping and delivery of goods; tele-working; virtual conferencing with school authorities; electronic voting; electronic distance education for sick or disabled children.” (Ref: CO_0162)

Impacts on Mobility and Transport

Different mobility patterns over time and space

  • “The multi-purpose trip is a typical characteristic of women’s mobility behaviour, especially for employed women with children, who tend to combine trips for shopping, taking children to kindergarten/school etc.” (Ref: CO_0079)
  •  “Generally, when compared to men, women in urban areas tend to take more and shorter trips at more varied times. These trips are more expensive in terms of in time and money.” (Ref: CO_0163)
  • “Women tend to make more off-peak trips, traveling to more disperse locations. Since women are more likely to be employed as informal workers, their destinations are not necessarily concentrated in the Central Business District (CBD) or in one or two main areas.” (Ref: CO_0163)
  • “As more women than men work as domestic servants, their travel times can be much earlier or later than the typical work day around which most transit is planned.” (Ref: CO_0163)
  • “Men consistently travel further distances than women, but women make the same or fewer trips.” (Ref: CO_0165)
  • “(...) women spend less time on travel than men. On average, it was found that men travel 13 minutes more than women do per day.” (Ref: CO_0162)

More need of private transport...

  • “Women’s travel to work patterns are still dominated by the use of private transport and, even when they have high levels of access to public transport, the use of private transport is essential in order to allow them to negotiate the complexities which face them when seeking to link home and work. Many of these complexities have been exacerbated by the spatial mismatch between the areas that women live and the jobs and services which are available to them.” (Ref: CO_0010)
  • “In countries with greater gender equality, more women are mobile, more women work outside the home, and they utilize more types of transport. The emergence of more women working outside of the home could have a profound effect, especially in countries that currently have low motorization rates. Additionally, changes in views about women driving in specific countries/regions of the world could have a very significant impact on transport patterns.” (Ref: CO_0159)

...but lower possibility to afford it

  • “Generally, women have a lower incidence of vehicle use, and a higher incidence of walking. This is partly a reflection of lack of money to afford to buy vehicles or pay for services. This reinforces women’s time poverty.” (Ref: CO_0079)
  • “Women undertake more trips on foot in their neighbourhood related to the satisfaction of everyday needs. As women still perform the bulk of household and caring work, they are often accompanied by children and older people, who are the slowest traffic participants.” (Ref: CO_0079)