Only two in every ten transport workers are women. With 78% of jobs occupied by men, transport is one of the sectors most affected by gender inequality. The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) believes that attracting more women to transport jobs is an urgent imperative, and is proposing the creation of a 'Platform for Change' to address this issue.
At its April plenary, the EESC approved the opinion 'Women and Transport – Platform for Change', which defines the shape and operation of this new stakeholder forum and provides recommendations to the Commission on how to set it up.
"Transport is a sector designated by men and for men", said the EESC rapporteur Madi Sharma. "But today, increasing the number of women in transport is not only a gender argument, it is also an economic and social imperative. The sector desperately needs competent, engaged employees who feel valued and protected in their employment in order to bring growth and innovation."
Indeed, by improving gender equality, the Platform will also tackle some of the most pressing social and economic challenges of the transport sector, such as reducing the threat of future workforce shortages (a third of all workers are currently over 50 years old), raising working conditions, improve the balance between work and private life, addressing harassment or improving the sector's image. The overall objective will be to increase participation and opportunities for women, women-owned companies and female managers.
Ms. Sharma argued that "these are not challenges the EU Commission can legislate for. The EESC proposed platform seeks to engage all stakeholders in the process of changing the working environment of the sector". Participants should include industry, SME associations, trade unions, women's associations, NGOs, media, policy-makers, academia, etc.
This Platform will only be successful if its members take full ownership, and therefore the EESC proposes the terms of reference and the scope to be set by members and Commission representatives at their first meeting. To ensure it delivers tangible results, the Platform should follow an action-based approach, with SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound) objectives and targeted measures focusing on implementing change and disseminating learning.
In addition, the EESC believes monitoring, evaluation and annual reviews to be essential tools to ensure its credibility and success. A website should be created to list members and their activities, and host a database of actions, recommendations, monitoring reports, evaluations and best practices.
The Platform for Change is the result of the EESC's sustained work on transport and gender equality, which began in 2015 with a first exploratory opinion. It has been inspired by the working methods of civil society engagement practiced in the EESC, as well as the benchmark DG SANTE Platform on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, which has delivered very positive results during its 10 years' existence.
Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans and Commissioner Bulc have endorsed the EESC's concept of a Platform for Change, and the launch of the initiative will take place at the EESC in November 2017 in the presence of Commissioner Bulc.