Consultancies study impact of more women in Europe's transport sector

16 March 2018 3 min. read

The European Commission has hired four consulting and research firms to help European policy makers gain further insight into how diversity in the transport sector could be improved. The research will be carried out by international consultancies Ecorys and PwC, Netherlands-based research firm Panteia, and German institute ISI-Fraunhofer. 

Diversity is a notorious issue in the transport sector. From Belgium to France, Germany or Poland, positions in the transport sector – an industry estimated by The Boston Consulting Group to be worth roughly €2.7 billion globally – are for a large part held by men. According to a 2015 study on the matter, nearly 8 in 10 positions are fulfilled by males (78%), with women holding a 22% share.

Improving the diversity gap

In recent years, several initiatives have been established across Europe to improve the male-female ratio in the sector, such as the Women in Rail (WIR) initiative and the Women Employment in the Urban Public Transport Companies in Europe (WISE) project. Another such initiative is a charter by the European Union asking leading companies in the (public) transport sector to pledge to support more equality between men and women, on aspects such as compensation & benefits and career opportunities. Around seventy organisations have to date signed the statement, including French transporters Keolis and SNCF, Belgian De Lijn, and various ministers who lead the transport portfolio nationally. 

What is the impact of more women in Europe's transport sector?

Across the board, however, analysts highlight that while awareness has been created, progress has been limited. Against this backdrop, the European Commission (EC) has decided to commission a study to gain more understanding on the impact of women on the sector, and what value added they could bring to the industry as a whole and individual organisations. On top of that, a key objective of the study is to shed light on what measures should be taken to make the transport sector more attractive for women, both in terms of attracting females as well as retaining them. 

Four consulting firms have been called in to conduct the study: Ecorys, an economics consultancy with a large footprint in Europe; PwC, one of the four largest accounting and consulting firms of the globe; Panteia, a Dutch research agency and ISI-Fraunhofer, a German think-tank specialised in energy and transport. 

Meanwhile, the researchers have unveiled a list of hypotheses they are working with. First is that increased female workforce participation would grow the labour base of the sector, which will enable the industry as a whole to better tackle labour shortages faced in some segments. In addition, the researchers expect that an improved diversity mix would benefit the soft side of organisation and culture, such as innovation, team spirit, employee engagement and risk-taking behaviour. Thirdly, the four-member strong consortium of consultancies suspect that increasing the number of women will also lead to benefits such as higher productivity, improved safety and higher employee retention.

To come to their findings, the researchers will conduct several case studies and run a survey among professionals in the sector.