The article is a writeup of the ninth PTRC Fireside Chat that took place on 15 April 2021. The event, attended by around 200 people, was an opportunity to take a serious look at an issue that should be firmly in the minds of transport professionals and yet often isn’t: diversity and inclusion – in particular matters of race and gender.
White male privilege has been a defining characteristic of the transport profession which has in turn shaped the transport system used by others – the majority of whom are not white and male.
The pandemic has substantially contributed to a state of flux in society and mobility. When we talk about a ‘new normal’, this must surely be an opportunity to think about a more inclusive new normal – a sector that can respect and embrace diversity and in turn one that can help shape a more inclusive transport system for the future.
Headlines from the writeup are as follows:
• Transport touches, and is fundamental to most people’s lives - a transport system is not successful if it is not supporting the needs of a diverse society
• Race and gender are all around us in our daily lives - they may be invisible like oxygen, but like oxygen, they are an essential part of life on this planet
• The pandemic has highlighted inequalities and prejudice but it may also have created a state of flux and introspection that provides a chance to move towards a more inclusive new normal
• If you haven’t tested your eyesight lately when it comes to seeing race and gender issues in transport, the resources are there, you just need the time and inclination to make use of them
• There is great value in becoming self-aware of how different things can be when you change position (including looking beyond white male privilege)
• Beware of having an orientalist mindset in which you impose generalisations about country, race and culture in ignorance, with a saviour mindset linked to inherent privileges and biases – seek training to raise your cultural intelligence
• Empathy is important but do not be presumptive - ask, don’t assume (it’s a false economy to do otherwise), and certainly don’t presume to tell others when in ignorance of their own legitimacy of perspective
• On a fundamental level, equity and design of inclusive transportation systems cannot be addressed without a representative workforce, without people who bring in more diverse perspectives
• Workforce turnover is a crucial dynamic through which to help change the makeup of the profession for the better, provided that the approach to recruitment and promotion is consciously (if not unconsciously) competent regarding matters of diversity
• The race and gender data gap is very real - if we are going to have a user-based perspective on supporting travel that meets the needs of all in society, we need to understand the diversity of users and collect data that supports this
• We need to move as individuals from unconscious incompetence regarding racial and gender inequality towards becoming unconsciously competent in how we behave to promote more inclusive transport
• Don’t be a bystander when it comes to addressing diversity and inclusion, be an upstander – it’s never too late to speak up and start conversations – and this applies especially if you are white and male: be an ally and don’t be afraid of making mistakes (learn by doing)
Lyons, G. The chance for a more inclusive new normal in transport