In the autumn of 2020 – commissioned by the Public Transport Authority of Warsaw (Poland’s capital) – a survey was carried out asking female passengers and employees of Warsaw Public Transport what barriers women working in the transport industry face, and what conditions would have to be met for the situation to improve. A total of 44 people took part in the survey.
How do women feel about travelling by Warsaw Public Transport?
The women and men interviewed strongly emphasised that they use public transport in the same way, and that they do not consider potential amenities in terms of gender, but only from the perspective of the needs of a specific person, e.g. with a disability. The topic of special conditions only came up in the case of pregnant women and mothers taking care of infants.
They pointed out, among other things, the need for appropriate signposting of places for pregnant women and travellers with small children, designation of spaces for prams, equipping toilets in stations and train stations with changing facilities and creating rooms for breastfeeding women.
“I think that some women, especially pregnant women, might be afraid (…) that there might be a crowd, that someone might accidentally fail onto them, poke, hit or whatever, or in a situation where, for example, the driver slams on the brakes and this person bumps into something” – said Magda.
According to Remigiusz:
“Unfortunately, as an invalid person or a woman with a pram, with children, we aren’t able to freely get directly to the vehicle, neither from the Central Station (the biggest railway station in Warsaw). You have to climb some stairs, there is usually no lift, and the lifts that are there are usually not operating due to malfunction”.
New developments were also mentioned:
“I think providing extra space for prams in the new buses is quite important and necessary. More than once I’ve seen three prams on a bus, where the mother had to hold on to the handrail during the trip. In the new ones, because in the older ones it’s only space for maximum one pram”, described Natalia.
The only factor which, according to the people surveyed, distinguished women’s journeys compared to men travelling by Warsaw Public Transport, was safety. It has been emphasised that women are more exposed to dangerous and uncomfortable situations than men. Among others, they mentioned travelling in the company of men under the influence of alcohol or groups behaving aggressively. Women also complained about violations of private and intimate space.
“Let’s not be afraid to name it – frotteurism. It’s not pleasant for us when we’re on a bus and someone just… Well, you know what it’s about and we’re all confused”, said Katarzyna.
While mentioning dangerous situations in public transport, the topic of feeling that in case of danger one cannot count on the help from transport workers or the police was also raised. At the same time, passengers suggested solutions that could increase the feeling of security: the presence of the operator’s employees in the vehicles as “guards”, equipping the vehicles with security buttons and better lighting at stops.
How do women feel about working in Warsaw Public Transport?
None of the interviewed persons working in Warsaw Public Transport felt that they were discriminated at work because of their gender.
It has been emphasised that year by year, the number of women working as managers and drivers increases. This is, among others, a result of changes in rolling stock and transport infrastructure that have been taking place for several years. Nowadays, you do not need much physical strength to change gears in a bus or to throw over the points.
Different opinions appeared in the case of women working as technicians or operators. Female and male participants of the study did not perceive any barriers on the part of employers, but no incentives were observed either. In addition, some reluctance from male co-workers was indicated, for whom e.g. vehicle repair is a typically male task.
“It’s not that there is some kind of active discrimination. It’s just that there is no encouragement, there is no attempt to show that – I don’t know – we are looking for people in the transport supervision department, and you – Basia, Zosia [Polish women names] and so on – if you meet the requirements, you can apply as well (…). When there is a recruitment, whether external or internal – men come, it’s as if nothing is done to recommend women for typically male positions.
– Magdalena remarked.
Female workers and operators also described the amenities available for women. The first is the definition of timetables that facilitate the combination of work and childcare. The second is related to the allocation of lines, so that female bus and tram drivers are assigned lines that start and end in a place with access to toilets and hot water.
“These lines have to be selected in such a way that social conditions are ensured (…), so that a woman working as a bus driver has a sense of comfort. So, I don’t know if this is exactly such discrimination, because I would rather say that it goes in the opposite direction, rather these sanitary conditions the companies are trying to provide are getting better every year”.
This article includes original statements of persons participating in the survey have been preserved.
Zarząd Transportu Miejskiego (ZTM) in Warsaw is a partner in the DIAMOND project.
ZTM, the member of the European Metropolitan Transport Authorities (EMTA) and the International Association of Public Transport (UITP), is the organiser and supervisor of public transport in the Warsaw agglomeration. We provide rides for the inhabitants of the metropolis with a population of over two million people and connect 34 neighbouring communes with Warsaw. Every day, passengers take more than 3 million rides on public transport (data from before the pandemic). They can use many types of tickets, including the Integrated Ticket, honoured by rail carriers, as well as local bus lines, launched by ZTM together with local governments of Warsaw’s suburban boroughs.