Deconstructing the Gender Gap in Shared Micromobility Usage
Women are less likely to use shared micromobility services such as moped sharing and kick scooter sharing. The gender gap can be addressed by making women more involved in the planning process and tailoring the service to meet their needs.
Women represent half of the population and therefore could potentially be half the addressable market for shared mobility operators. However, shared micromobility users tend to be primarily male. This has been the case for many years. This article will explore where the industry stands in the moped and kick scooter sharing business, why this is the case, and how we can make shared micromobility more equal.
Where do we stand? Three out of four users are male.
We collected what we found in the literature and asked several additional shared mobility operators for their gender registration ratios. We believe the below sample size is a good representation of the industry status.
Tab. 1.: Female registration ratios of selected kick scooter and moped sharing operators globally
* Values are rounded. Additionally, operators include increasingly non-binary gender options.
** Data retrieved from pilot program study run in Portland, Oregon of three kick scooter sharing operators
1 “The e-scooter sharing gap”, Jennifer Dill Ph.D., Portland State University https://jenniferdill.net/2019/02/01/the-e-scooter-gender-gap/
2 Data confirmed through conversation conducted with operator
3 “The Gender Gap in Shared Micromobility”, Alexandre Gauquelin, Urban Mobility Daily https://urbanmobilitydaily.com/the-gender-gap-in-shared-micromobility/
4 “Revel Mopeds in New York City: A Safety Study”, Sarah Kaufman and Nicholas Cowan, Revel https://gorevel.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Revel_NYC_Safety_Report_2020.pdf
Thanks to the provided operator insights, the table shows that 25-34% of the registered customers of moped and kick scooter sharing operators are women. The founder & CEO of the Canadian mobility consultancy movmi, Sandra Phillips, confirms that “part of that has to do with the fact that men tend to adopt new technologies faster than women.”
If we dig deeper into the general data, one could gain even more insights. The gap differs from city to city and between age cohorts. This also means that one operator is not per se more inclusive than the other, at least not simply based on the ratios (due to differing framework conditions such as city or local population).
Additionally, the gender gap seems to get narrower the longer an operator is established. Approximately three years ago, German moped sharing operator emmy listed 20% female customers, whereas today’s average lies already at 26%. If we just look at the newly registered users from 2020, the value lies already beyond 30%. A clear trend towards a more gender-equal service usage.
Why is shared micromobility male-dominated? Trying to explain the gap.
Let’s dig in a little deeper. We asked the co-founder of the AEM Institute, Ines Kawgan-Kagan, who is writing her PhD on this topic, for her view. According to her, many aspects influence the adoption of micromobility – “starting with the male dominance of invention and decision making, over to different intentions and requirements of using micromobility”.
Based on the available literature and a few selected expert interviews on the matter, we identified the following reasons for the gender gap:
- Risk perception & infrastructure
- Care work
- Vehicle suitability
- The influence of the vehicle ownership gender gap
Risk and infrastructure
Studies show that women are more likely to rank the quality of road infrastructure with lower performance values and at the same time as more important than men. Therefore, the perceived risk of using micromobility options might be higher for women.
Experts rank the role of care work as one of the central reasons for the gender gap, since women are more likely to fulfill these (daily) tasks. A Revel study from 2020 by Kaufman & Cowan calls it the caregiver conundrum:
“In American households, 75% of caregivers are women, attending to the needs of children, elderly parents, or other dependent relatives. Because caregiving requires transportation of these populations and often packages or equipment, micromobility devices are not (equally) suitable for these trips.”
Many vehicles available in the market are rather designed for male than for female users. One example: Heavy vehicles favour for instance more body-weight/strength for handling basic processes such as jacking up vehicles for parking (in case of mopeds).
Vehicle ownership gender gap
Finally, and importantly, the gap is not an exclusive problem for shared mobility. It also holds true for vehicle ownership. In many of the shared micromobility markets, mopeds for instance, have been primarily used by men in the past. This heritage is still manifested today, partially also because of the above mentioned reasons. In Switzerland for instance, only 20% of the moped owners are women. Logically, shared mobility operators inherited the gender gap, since many of their customers previously owned or still own a private vehicle. This can also be formulated as an opportunity, shared micromobility could become a driver of overcoming the gender gap in micromobility itself (owned and shared alike). Kick scooter ownership and sharing are newer mass modes (therefore less data available). In general, more research is needed on this relationship between shared mobility and vehicle ownership.
Outlook: Selected strategies to make shared micromobility attractive for more people
According to Ines Kawgan-Kagan, the industry “is at the beginning of researching micromobility from a gender perspective”. Therefore, we want to provide you with some potential first measures and some good reads to dig further into the topic and act.
What can the industry do to counteract the gender gap in place?
- Increase diversity of people designing new mobility solutions – “Shared mobility, including micromobility, is at the intersection of transportation planning, engineering and technology: all sectors that struggle with diversity in the workforce. That’s a problem, because all of us have an inherent design bias towards what we know and understand ourselves. Which basically means we build solutions that solve our own problems. So if you want more women using your service, you need to get them a seat at your table and have them be part of designing and building the solutions.” – Sandra Phillips, CEO of the Canadian mobility consultancy movmi
- Ideally, include diverse perspectives before launching a product – “It is not enough to think about gender issues when you have a market-ready product. It is not the right approach when operators say that they need to solve the other problems first before they have the capacity to think about gender issues. That basically describes the situation perfectly: You optimize a product for a male-dominated market and then wonder what you can do to make it attractive for more women.” – Ines Kawgan-Kagan, Managing Director at German-based AEM Institute GmbH
- Offering lessons specifically by and for women (addressing safety concerns and reducing the stigma of a male-dominated mode)
- Focus on the right hardware needs (suitable vehicles)
- Design strategies that address the needs of female users (in terms of content and channels)
Looking beyond this article, the gender bias doesn’t stop at the user side. It exists widely throughout the mobility industry. According to movmi, 22% of the transportation workforce is female and of those less than 3% are in a CEO position. Today, the gender bias is more often and louder addressed by the industry (e.g. by the network ‘Women in Mobility’ or the webinar series ‘Women of TIER’). It can be seen that the topic is more often addressed and recognized within various stakeholder groups. However, erasing systemic barriers which cause the bias are not easy nor fast to overcome.
In a nutshell, the gender gap in moped and kick scooter sharing registration numbers is strong. 25-33% of users are usually women. Additionally, we mentioned four selected reasons for the gender gap; risk perception & infrastructure, care work, vehicle suitability and the longstanding gender gap in vehicle ownership. Finally we mentioned some strategies to overcome the imbalance, including increasing diversity of people designing new mobility solutions and designing strategies that address the needs of female users.
- The Urban Mobility Daily (2020): The Gender Gap in Shared Micromobility. urbanmobilitydaily.com (article focuses on bikes and kick scooters)
- Tanu Priya Uteng, Hilda Rømer Christensen, Lena Levin (2019): Gendering Smart Mobilities.
- Women of TIER (2020): Podcast
- Katja Diehl (2020): She drives mobility. Podcast
movmi together with ABB, ITSAmerica, UITP, the Ray and GoWithFlow has launched an award program called Empower Women in Shared Mobility with the objective to promote one female led mobility venture over 12 months to increase diversity in the shared mobility ecosystem. Applications are open until Dec 15th 2020. Link