Women in transportation: breaking gender barriers and stereotypes

Deyanira AvilaAlthough historically, the transportation sector has been predominantly male, more and more women are challenging barriers and occupying leadership roles in this industry. The inclusion of women in the transportation and infrastructure sector brings benefits in terms of diversity, creativity, and unique perspectives. Additionally, it helps to break gender stereotypes and create a more equitable and fair work culture. An example of this is the case of Deyanira Ávila Moreno, Secretary of Mobility of Bogotá D.C.

Although her original training as a cadastral and geodetic engineer provided her with a solid foundation in territory planning, it was her work in the Mobility Office that allowed her to develop as a leader in this sector.

"I entered the Office when it was a new and growing entity, and I fell in love with public transport and sustainable mobility,” says Deyanira.

“My focus as a territory planner allowed me to understand how transport is a key piece in the organisation of territory, and my work in the Office gave me the opportunity to learn from my colleagues and innovate in the field of transport.”

During her career, Deyanira has found that there are two key strategies that have allowed her to excel in difficult situations. The first is the ability to plan and organise.

"In my work in the Mobility Office, we have carried out numerous successful projects in the city thanks to our technical strength and planning skills," explains Deyanira.

The second strategy is the ability to react quickly and strategically to changing situations, always keeping a cool head.

"Working in the public sector requires making important decisions in a short time, but it is crucial to do so with a strategic perspective. However, it is important to note that I could not do it alone, as I have an incredible team that supports me in both the planning and reaction components," she continues.

Deyanira believes that, despite this being a mostly male-dominated sector, women have a much more agile planning and reaction capacity, thanks to their closeness and care for others, which allows them to approach situations more easily without leaving behind technique, leadership or regulation and control capacity. It is in this belief that she adopts a gendered approach when working on projects.

"Sometimes, the maternal figure prevails in society, so taking advantage of this female strength and making it visible in the position of traffic and transport authority is essential. If these two factors are combined, different projects can be successfully completed under equal conditions," she says.

It was Deyanira’s experience working on mobility projects that led her to fall in love with the idea of sustainable mobility and to believe in its importance for improving the quality of life of millions of people who cannot access a vehicle. She highlights the importance of perseverance and acceptance of failure in this field and believes that women are uniquely placed for leadership positions in the sector due to their sensitivity to the needs of people who use public transport.

"I have seen that when women have been leading this office, there is more sensitivity to the needs of communities and the role of women in transportation in the city. If one manages to improve the quality of life of women, it improves everyone's quality of life," she explains.

Regarding her leadership style, Deyanira focuses on team building, recognising the importance of teamwork and seeking to create an environment in which people feel committed and motivated.

"I have been described as having a motherly leadership style, in which I pick up the team and push them without doing their job for them. But for me, it is more important to be a leader rather than a boss since I have been in lower-ranking roles, I have built a career in the organisation, and I understand what it means to do the job. I like to help people rather than just giving them orders."

Deyanira explains that positioning oneself in this sector is complex, but she considers that she has been successful due to her reputation and experience over the years. However, she asserts that to get to where she is, she has to have a strong character.

"The environment in which I work requires you to have a certain strength in order to be respected and have your opinion taken into account. Any Secretary must have character, but especially as a woman, it is important to have a firm position and to be respected. The position is just a title, and one must earn things and build a reputation," she concludes.

The inclusion of women in the transportation and mobility sector is crucial to achieving a more equitable and just society, and Deyanira proves that women can bring a unique and valuable perspective to a sector that has historically been dominated by men. Through her leadership and experience, Deyanira has demonstrated that women can excel in this field and lead successful projects in public transportation and sustainable mobility. It is important to continue working on the implementation of gender policies and strategies in this sector to ensure equal opportunities and advance towards a more inclusive and sustainable future in terms of transportation and mobility.


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