Inés Sánchez de Madariaga: «Investment in transportation systems must include the concept of care»

By  | 2023

How can we capitalize on science and data to design cities and public spaces that consider the specific needs of women? What role does mobility play, and how can we optimize it to actively promote gender equality in our urban areas? Few individuals are better suited to discuss these topics than Inés Sánchez de Madariaga.

Holder of the prestigious UNESCO Chair on gender equality policies in science, technology and innovation and a Professor of Urban Planning at Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Inés Sánchez de Madariaga has gained international recognition as a leading expert at the intersection of transportation, urban planning, architecture, and STEM. As an international advisor actively involved in shaping global initiatives and networks, she has made significant contributions to policy, practice, and research to advance gender equality in cities.

In our conversation with her (both in video and text) we will explore the insights, experiences, and innovative approaches Inés brings to these critical topics, shedding light on how we can create inclusive and gender-responsive cities and optimize mobility for the betterment of all.

— How would you define a city?

A city is a place where we live. It is a physical built space with infrastructure, public space, transportation, housing, places where we work… It is where social life takes place, and it has a materiality.

— Talking about materiality, how can city planners and city makers support gender equality?

City planners can support gender equality by taking it into consideration the specificity of women’s lives in the way they plan, the way they propose projects in cities, the way they design urban space. Women use the city in different ways men do — we know that through statistics, and it is not a normative way of understanding, but it is the reality of what is happening today. What the data tell us it is that, on a daily basis, women perform most of the tasks that are needed for the support of daily life, for the reproduction of life, for the care of others and particularly of those who cannot move autonomously in the city, of the young and the elderly, or the sick, or the handicapped. Taking this into account, planners can contribute to gender quality by looking in which ways cities can better respond to those specific ways of using and and living in the city. For instance, by designing spaces that allow for better caretaking of kids and the elderly, by designing spaces that can be perceived for women as safe spaces — this is very subjective, but we have to understand that women stop going to places when they perceive that they are not safe. These are ways planners and designers can improve gender equality in the city.

«Medium-sized cities are much better equipped to create the conditions for gender equality» — Inés Sánchez de Madariaga

— 15 years ago, you coined the term ‘mobility of care’. What does it imply and how has it evolved over the years?

‘Mobility of care’ is a concept that I coined in the year 2008, and that was the result of a project I did for the Spanish Ministry of Transportation. They asked me to analyze the main transportation services in the country from a gender perspective, and I found a number of biases in the concepts and the way they were analyzing the data and collecting the data.

After a while, I realized that if we look at the purposes for travel and the way that those transportation services were analyzing the purpose for travel — like employment, education, shopping, strolling, visiting, escorting —, many of those purposes for travel are trips that mostly women do for the care of others: when you go shopping, when you go visiting someone, when you go strolling, when you accompany someone… Many of these trips are not leisure trips. They are not done for personal purposes, they are done for the care of others and for the upkeep of the home. This is how I came up with this idea of giving an umbrella term, a category for analyzing mobility that gathers all these trips under one single name: ‘mobility of care‘. So it is a category that allows us to quantify and to make visible the trips that people do for the upkeep of life and the caring of others in the city.

— And how does ‘mobility of care’ impact gender equality in cities?

The concept of mobility of care impacts gender equality by putting at the forefront the idea that the trips that adult individuals do for taking care of others and for the upkeep of the home are important because they are many, and they are almost as many as employment-related mobility. We have empirical evidence about this fact, which means that the priorities of investment in transportation systems and how they are managed have to include care as an important objective of the policy.

And this will necessarily lead to outputs in terms of the use of the transportation systems that provide better solutions to women’s needs in the city to care tasks because the policy will be more responsive to it. So that is one way in which mobility of care can contribute to a greater gender equality, because it will lead to create transportation systems that help women get into the labor force by improving the way that all care tasks can be performed in the city.

🚋 «Care mobility implies almost as many trips as employment-related mobility. Priorities of investment in transportation systems must consider this reality.» #CitiesToBe interviews @i_smadariaga, @UNESCO Chair on #GenderEquality Policies | by… Clic para tuitear

— Which cities are exemplary in gender mainstreaming?

Because of their size, medium-sized cities are much better equipped to create the conditions for gender equality. It is a pre-condition that helps in that, because in medium-sized cities everything is closer. First, they have a good level of provisional services, which are needed for everyday life, and then because they are not very big, the time spent in getting to places is smaller than in big metropolitan areas. And then I would say that cities that have carried out successful and efficient policies that have integrated gender considerations into their built environment — into housing, transportation, public space, etc. There, Vienna is the the the example. They are the ones that have been doing it for almost 30 years now, and they have very important pilot projects in housing — for example, those by my colleague Franziska Ullmann —, in designing public spaces taking into consideration what boys and girls of different ages need and how they use space, and their relative interests in using those spaces.

«Vienna has carried out successful and efficient policies that have integrated gender considerations into their built environment.» — Inés Sánchez de Madariaga

— In terms of improving cities from a gender equality perspective, what can we expect in the next 10 years?

l I think that there is a momentum for considering gender and women in the city. That is in the public conversation, but now it needs to move into actual transformation of policy and planning. And planning cities, by its very nature, is not short term — 10 years is a very short time span for things to change in a substantial way. However, we have done the first step, which is that nobody would say today that it is not important and necessary to look at gender and women’s issues in the city. That is the most important thing. Once everybody has agreed on that, and I think everybody has, it is about moving into actual projects and plans. It will take time, but we are in the way to it.

Interview, text and edition by Sergio García i Rodríguez,
Head of Communication at Anteverti & CitiesToBe Executive Editor, and Tatiane Martins, consultant at Anteverti.

Video by Eloy Calvo

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About the authors

UNESCO Chair on Gender in Science, Technology and Innovation | + posts

Inés Sánchez de Madariaga is UNESCO Chair on Gender in Science, Technology and Innovation, Professor of Urban Planning at Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, and Chair of AGGI the Advisory Group on Gender Issues to the Executive Director of UN-Habitat.She is a leading international expert on gender in transportation, urban planning, architecture, and STEM, with extensive experience in policy, practice, and research.

She is a member of the Advisory Council of the Spanish UN-Sustainable Solutions Development Network. She has been Chair of the international COST network Gender, Science, Technology and Environment and co-Director of the EU-US Gendered Innovations Project. As member of the European Commission Helsinki Group on Gender in Research and Chair the EC Expert Group on Structural Change, she led the negotiations to introduce gender as a central element of the EC research program Horizon2020. She has been PI of over 50 research projects, funded by international organizations, national, regional and local governments. She has held public office as Deputy Director General for Architecture, Advisor to the Minister of Housing, Advisor to the Minister of Science, Director of the Women and Science Unit at the Cabinet of the Secretary of State for Research.

A former Fulbright grantee, she has been Visiting Scholar at MIT, UCLA, the Bauhaus-Weimar, London School of Economics, and Columbia University. She is author of over 100 articles and editor of two reference books on gender in planning: Engendering Cities: Designing Sustainable Urban Spaces for All, Routledge, 2020, and Fair Shared Cities. The Impact of Gender Planning in Europe. 2013. In 2021 she received the Matilde Ucelay Award in recognition for her professional trajectory in promoting women in transportation, mobility and urban planning granted by the Spanish Ministry of Transportation and Urban Agenda.

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