Ines Kawgan-Kagan: "The transfer into every-day life is the biggest problem."

For more than ten years, Dr. Ines Kawgan-Kagan has been working on the topics of mobility, transport and society with a focus on gender, diversity and inclusion. In the interview she tells us how mobility can be designed in a gender-neutral or inclusive way.

Ines, what is your favourite vehicle to travel to work with?    

The bicycle. 

Which mode of transport do you think is most underestimated?    

"Going on foot". Mainly, because many people are simply not aware of it: we walk to bus stops, we also walk to our car. This is not picked up in surveys either. Only distances above 500 meters are counted and even in everyday life we say: "We don't have enough time, we have too much to carry." And then we decide not to walk. 

In an interview you said that walking is more feminine, whereas men tend to use the car. In what other ways does mobility differ between genders?    

The differences between female and male mobility are not only in the choice of means of transport, but also in how their situation looks while travelling. Women are more likely to travel shorter distances, men more likely to travel long distances. Men are more likely to travel alone, women more often in the company of children or people they are taking care of. They also have a stronger need for safety than men. The biggest difference, however, is the reason to be mobile, which is simply based on a difference in who does what task in everyday life. We are not mobile for self-service. In most cases we connect multiple activities. Women are more likely to cover chains of routes than men. We want to go to work, we want to take the children to daycare, we go to sports. These different activities during the day have something to do with role models. 

Where do you see the biggest needs of improvement?    

In general, the biggest to-do is to work on the acceptance of the topic. We are talking about half of the population and their mobility, for example for care work, in other words, unpaid work. In the public eye, however, we mostly look at work-related journeys, such as cycling expressways or long-distance journeys via the ICE. Short journeys are looked at too rarely. In addition, matters of transport are often the responsibility of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, as they often are seen as economic routes. 

How can the needs of women in particular be taken into account in the development of innovative new mobility services? 

Individual mobility, as we know it from e-scooters, for example, does not take into consideration that we are not always travelling alone. Be it with children or in a group, in which perhaps not everyone is confident enough to use an e-scooter. I think that this comprehensive overview of different needs is very much lacking and that the offers can be used individually, i.e. spontaneously in many areas, but not individually in relation to the actual needs of people in our society. Most of the time these options come from users(!) who would have no problems using their own offers themselves. 

Women have a high need for safety when they are on the road, especially at night. What measures are needed to counter this problem?    

This is a very sensitive issue, because by taking measures to counteract the problem, the image of women as potential victims is reinforced. Take women's carriages in suburban trains as an example. This serves the cliché: "If you're not in the women's carriage now, you are fair game." We must work on this issue socially, so that women are not seen that way anymore. 

In Paris there was a nice campaign about this, which was called "Hands Away". During the campaign, posters were put up in public spaces that clearly showed: Just because a woman wears a short skirt, it is not an invitation to sexually harass her. I found the campaign remarkable as it addresses the root of the issue and not just its symptoms. 

Public transport can be used by everyone, so the issue is relevant here as well. Measures to ensure safety in public transport would be to place staff at the stations and install an emergency call box or video surveillance. 

Can mobility be designed in a gender-neutral way at all, and if so, how?    

I would call it inclusive mobility. Because distinguishing only between men and women won't get us anywhere nowadays. It's also about children, the elderly and people with health issues. There are so many things to consider. I am talking about a woman with a migration background in a wheelchair or a blind child, for example. The intersectionality is missing in that regard. If you take all of this into account, you end up with a mobility offer that can be used by as many people as possible, because it doesn't exclude anyone from the start. 

With the AEM (Institute for Accessible and Equitable Mobility), you offer advice on equity and sustainable mobility for communes, mobility service providers and NGOs, among others. Can you give best-practice examples of services that are successful taking these two factors into account?     

It depends on the level from which you look at it - whether from a transport planning, urban planning or mobility services perspective. For example, there are the super-blocks in Barcelona, which improve the quality of life in residential neighbourhoods by calming and redirecting traffic. This is a very well-known example of best practice, but it was not designed from a gender-perspective. And that is the problem: it is important to cover social issues as well and not only ecological and economic ones. You can see that, for example, with the Kiez-Blocks or the concept of the 15-Minute City. 

And on the mobility service provider side: Which providers cover the different needs of their users from an inclusive point of view?  

TIER and Voi, for example, are very active in the field of e-scooters. As an example, TIER has organized driver training for women, because they noticed that only a few women use their services. In addition, employees have created an internal women's network to connect women in the company and educate them on certain topics. And I know of a project in Munich where the bus driver can call a free taxi for women at night so that the last mile is safe for them as well. WeShare had also looked specifically at the needs of women and was sensitive to the issue.

What question on the topic of gender and mobility are you most confronted with in your work as a mobility researcher?     

How do we get the topic into practice? There are decades of research on this, but it just doesn't seem to be paid attention to, even though it is more present now. Fundamental hurdles still need to be touched on. Putting it into real-life is the biggest problem. Many want to have calculations in advance that it will be financially worthwhile to address the issue and to take a closer look at the needs of women. On the one hand, this is of course understandable, but on the other hand, it loses focus of the fact that offers have the intention to be perceived as sustainable and that the social component must also be considered. Especially when it comes to women's needs, we are talking about a huge potential market that is not really being addressed at the moment. 

To whom would you like to put the question on implementation?    

To the leaders in ministries, especially in the Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport. And to the decision-makers in companies, because the topic is relevant for many, especially women, even in lower management positions. However, the question I would really like to address more is: "What can a mobility turnaround for underrepresented groups look like? There are studies on behaviour and needs in this regard, but no plans on how this can be implemented sustainably. This is relevant for companies as these "underrepresented" people are only underrepresented in our perception, but in real life they make up the majority of people. Only a few fit to the typical healthy, well-off and educated, tech-savvy, full-time working man without a migration background. 

And who would be the right addressee here?     

I see a lot of potential in start-ups, which often develop mobility services based on their own needs. But even these services often only have a limited perspective. An offer is created and then somehow is predominantly used by men. After a while, the question arises as to how this offer, which is optimised for these men, can be advertised in such a way that more women use it. Changing the offer itself costs more money and it must first be proven that it is financially worthwhile. This is a long process that is very expensive, instead of including other needs in the development from the beginning. I would like to create more sensitivity for the topic and tell them: "Look to the left and to the right when you are starting development. Can this also be used by other people who are not necessarily in your environment and are not interested in technology?". That would be the first step. 

Thanks for talking to us!

About Ines Kawgan-Kagan: Dr.- Ing. Ines Kawgan-Kagan is a German mobility researcher and lectures on mobility, transport and society at the University of Applied Sciences in Berlin. For more than ten years she has been working on mobility and transport in combination with gender, diversity and inclusion. She wrote her PhD thesis at the Technical University of Berlin on the Gender Mobility Gap in innovative mobility offers. She is also a founder of the AEM Institute (Institute for Accessible and Equitable Mobility) and offers consultations, scientific studies, trainings and further education aimed at advancing equitable and sustainable mobility. 

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