Gender parity company offers new transportation experience – 03/10/2023

In Colombia, women occupy only 9% of jobs in the transport sector. In this context, the company La Rolita was created in Bogotá, the country’s capital. According to an article published on the Colombian news portal “El Espectador”, the public transport operator comes from a tender (means by which bus systems are awarded to private companies) in which no company applied for the operation of 11 bus lines that would serve 35,000 people living in the southern region of the Colombian city – an area historically served by informal transport.

Thus, the new public company called La Rolita was born out of the need to meet a transport demand that, a priori, was not of interest to the private sector. Taking advantage of the opportunity to create something new as a chance to explore new ways of doing things, La Rolita also came up with the commitment to guarantee parity between men and women in the operation of the services – which means that they occupy at least 50% of the posts of work, from the direction to the maintenance of the buses.

Nothing fairer, since they make up 50% of the population, just like in Brazil, where the male presence in the operation of transport systems is predominant. In the city of São Paulo, for example, only 2.16% of people driving buses are women, according to 2019 data.

At the time of the start of operations of the company La Rolita, in September 2022, Claudia López Hernández, mayor of Bogotá – one of the few women in an official position at the head of the great Latin American capitals -, stated in a public statement:

“This month we will have the start of operations of the new public transport operator. We do not want Bogotá to depend only on private operation. We are very grateful to those who carry it out, but it is better to have a mixed system so that we can learn together and respond to the challenges of city”, while reinforcing that the operation of the buses will be carried out by electric buses. Measure that also takes innovation to the field of the environment, by assuming the commitment of a public bus company zero emissions of atmospheric pollutants and Greenhouse Gases (GHG).

It is important to remember that access to job vacancies associated with the operation of transport services, for many women, means the possibility of accessing the formal job market with the guarantee of all related labor rights, as well as an increase in family income. This in a context where about 70% of the 1.3 billion people living in poverty in the world are women, and where they are responsible (heads of households) for 40% of the poorest households in urban areas.

Aware of the difficulties that women, especially those in a situation of social vulnerability, face in obtaining the necessary qualification to exercise professions that historically have not been occupied by them, the new Colombian bus company offered training courses with access to all knowledge needed to drive buses and supported the obtainment of a vehicle license to drive these vehicles.

Initiative carried out with the support of international cooperation, which includes specific knowledge about driving electric buses and socio-emotional skills, according to an interview given to the portal “El Espectador” by Diana Parra, undersecretary of Care and Equality Policies of Bogotá.

And this is not the only experience in Bogota with the inclusion of women in the operation of transport systems. The District of Bogotá also carried out a review of the way of announcing job vacancies with the change of language used from the use of inclusive language, that is, without using generalizations in the male gender.

In addition, specific calls for women were included, or existing calls were adapted to state that the vacancies are also for them, not just for them. This measure already shows positive effects, having increased the number of workers in TransMilenio, a high-capacity transport system, in an exclusive corridor (BRT), which serves more than 300,000 people per year.

La Rolita brings Latin American cities the opportunity to accompany an innovative experience in offering bus systems in large capital cities, as it aligns gender equality, decarbonization of the bus fleet and review of the management model by committing to the increased direct public participation in service delivery.

It is worth following the experiences in Bogotá as inspirations for more inclusive possibilities for thinking about gender equity in the operation of cities, and also as an invitation to look critically and review how public transport services are operated in Brazilian cities.

We need to be aware that a transport system cannot be truly inclusive for the diversity of people who use it if the way they are managed and operated is not based on the same values. And this is valid for any service that is committed to democracy, diversity and accessibility.

Leave a Comment