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POLIS and SCALE join forces to promote gender diversity in the mobility workforce

The SCALE project and POLIS’ Just Transition Taskforce co-hosted an insightful webinar on International Women’s Day. The goal? To properly address gender diversity (or the lack thereof) in the electromobility workforce!

On International Women’s DaySCALE and POLIS’ Just Transition Taskforce co-hosted an exciting (and very much needed) online discussion on gender diversity in the electromobility sector. Moderated by Pedro Gomes and Juliette Thijs (POLIS), the panel included Karen Vancluysen (Secretary General at POLIS), Afroditi Stamelou (CERTH), Raphaël Héliot (AVERE), and Kanika Arora (Enedis). Read all the insights below!

Being proactive

Through the webinar, SCALE kickstarted discussions around gender diversity and equality in the electromobility sector. The project aims to undertake a series of internal and external activities, including capacity building, research, and communication that involve both women and men to champion gender diversity. As put by the webinar co-moderator Juliette Thijs (POLIS):

“To create systemic change throughout organisations, the public sector, private sector, users, and the workforce, there is only one way forward: to get everyone on board! Everyone has their part to play”.

Why is this important? With only 22% of the EU’s transport workforce comprising women and a mere 10% in land transport, addressing gender diversity is crucial. The average electric vehicle driver profile is “a -35-year-old male, living in a detached house, and with a monthly income between 2,000 € and 3,999 € who has a university or higher education diploma” as pointed out by the 2022 EAFO Consumer Monitor.

Tackling gender stereotyping

Mentors can play a pivotal role in fostering diversity within the transport workforce. By providing guidance, support, and encouragement, they can empower other women to pursue their career goals in traditionally male-dominated fields. As an example, POLIS member EMT Madrid launched a women in STEM for sustainable mobility chair to improve the access of women to training and employment opportunities in STEM, shedding light on how a public operator can work upstream to improve the diversity of its workforce. Kanika Arora, interning at Enedis as part of a gender diversity program for the SCALE project, explained the importance of representativity:

 “During my internship at Enedis on SCALE, I had the opportunity to work with a female manager who was incredibly supportive. She actively involved me in all aspects of the work. While I observed some diversity across various departments within the organisation, it highlighted the ongoing importance of initiatives like this webinar.”

According to the SUM4ALL report “Gender Imbalance in the Transport Sector: A toolkit for Change”, gender stereotyping was one of the main barriers identified by women to join and evolve in the transport sector. These were followed by discriminatory work cultures, lack of flexible working and childcare provisions, invisible glass ceilings and restricted career options, and finally gender equity and its relationship with wider diversity, behaviour and culture change. While the sector is evolving, the change is happening slowly. Karen Vancluysen (POLIS), who been in the sector for 25 years, shared her experience:

I remember the first European project I worked back in 1998, when I was the only woman. The sector has since changed for the better, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

Taking action and looking inward

It’s essential for national governments and the EU to prioritise gender diversity in governance to ensure its mainstream integration. With a workforce shortage in the transport industry, encouraging everyone to join is vital for Europe’s competitiveness. Having a diverse workforce is crucial for addressing varied mobility needs, which are not oblivious to factors like gender, race, social class, and abilities. Organisations in the sector must introspect and take action internally to enhance diversity. At AVERE, Raphaël Héliot (AVERE) explained:

“We are dedicated to increasing the representation of women in our secretariat and fostering an inclusive workplace; this involves, for example, implementing policies to support pregnant women or mothers. Additionally, overlooking diversity in the workforce can have negative effects on profitability and business success. Similarly, designing and promoting electric vehicles exclusively for men neglects half of the potential customer base.”

POLIS has taken several initiatives to promote gender diversity. This includes ensuring a balanced representation of women and men speakers at the Annual POLIS Conference and establishing the Just Transition Taskforce, among many others. As Karen Vancluysen puts it:

“If our workforce fails to adequately represent both men and women, it reflects a failure to address the mobility needs of all. Women constitute half of the population, yet they frequently find themselves categorised as vulnerable due to this disparity. At POLIS, the team is highly diverse in terms of gender, with a significant representation from a vocal younger generation that prioritises diversity issues at the forefront of the agenda.”

The presentation of the webinar is available here: