Is mobility gender-neutral? Spoiler alert: it’s not. Mind the Mobility Gap, a series brought to you by Women of TIER.
The Women of TIER is a webinar series hosted by the Berliner mobility startup TIER Mobility, with the mission to inspire women & allies through examples of leadership & learning, enabling the exchange of knowledge, experiences and networking in the startups & work environments. In their latest podcast season, they interview some of the best and brightest women in mobility and hear the female perspective on challenges in the industry. In this podcast the speakers were Sandra Phillips, movmi’s CEO, shared mobility architect and female leadership advocate. Sandra Witzel a Mobility-as-a-Service advocate and Head of Marketing at Skedgo. She also co-founded the Women In Mobility Chapter in London. Judith Oginga Martins is an Urban/Regional Planner and researcher with a passion for cities, the environment, alleviating poverty, gender and youth issues. She is currently researching sustainable mobility in East Africa at the United Nations Human Settlements Programme.
Keep reading to learn more about the speakers background and the challenges they have faced along the way, being female experts in a male dominated industry or listen here instead.
Women of tier (podcast) – mind the mobility gap #1
SANDRA PHILLIPS, FOUNDER & CEO, MOVMI
Sandra’s agency, movmi, specializes in shared mobility. Originally from Switzerland, Sandra grew up in a place where amazing public transportation networks were easily available and accessible. When she moved to Vancouver, she was told she would have to buy a private car, so instead, she got a job at car2go. Her job was to help decide whether car2go would be a good fit in Vancouver. Sandra introduced car2go in the Canadian market across four major cities.
She knew that more companies, especially smaller ones, would need assistance when introducing their own shared mobility systems into new cities. After doing a European tour, she realized there was a business case for it because that is when she got her first project, in the Middle East, and founded movmi, who has just celebrated their sixth anniversary.
SANDRA WITZEL, HEAD OF MARKETING AT SKEDGO
Skedgo is a Mobility-as-a-Service platform provider. The company grew from a B2C journey planner app to a global B2B tech provider, who licenses out their advanced routing algorithm to businesses hoping to create MaaS solutions. Sandra’s focus in the public sphere is accessibility and is an advocate from inclusive transportation as she deals with her own mobility issues. She is very engaged with the MaaS Alliance, where she is the work stream leader for ‘User-Centric MaaS’. She is also the co-founder of the Women in Mobility (WiM) London Hub.
JUDITH OGINGA-MARTINS, URBAN/REGIONAL PLANNER & RESEARCHER
Judith Oginga-Martins is an Urban/Regional Planner and researcher with a passion for cities, the environment, alleviating poverty, gender and youth issues. She is currently researching sustainable transport and mobility in East Africa at the United Nations Human Settlements Programme. She is originally from Kenya, but now lives in Sweden at Blekinge Institute of Technology.
WHAT CHALLENGES HAVE YOU EXPERIENCED WORKING AS WOMAN IN THIS INDUSTRY AND WHAT WERE THE LESSONS LEARNED?
Sandra only woman at a high level within car2go. She set an example of what was possible. She had goodbye drinks with her colleagues, and all these women came forward to say it was sad that she was leaving because there were no other women on a high level to inspire them within the company. The industry is very heavily male dominated. Up to a certain level there is a balanced work force, especially in new mobility, but beyond that it is a challenge for women is to see what is possible.
“There are a lot of women that use transportation, yet there isn’t enough women designed this technology for them. We need diverse voices to create diverse services.”
“If we don’t have a diverse workforce right to the top, we won’t be able to design systems for diverse usership”.
Sandra has worked in many different countries in different industries, from finance, to gaming to tech, to mobility and the challenges are all the same for women. Where there is no balance, it is hard to break through a glass ceiling. It’s also hard to create a personally, happy work culture in these industries. Sandra faced obvious ‘bro culture’ when she lived in San Francisco for two years. The workforce consisted of young men in jeans, t-shirts and sneakers. And there is this new knowledge and awareness that systems need to be diversified, but it is still fighting with the old denial that ‘we are just hiring based on credentials, not gender.’ At Skedgo, Sandra is the only female in an executive position, but she is working within an environment where she could create her own niche and is able to grow as a woman in the industry, with the help and support of her team members.
When deciding to carve out a career in a particular field that is male dominated, the realization hit Judith when she entered the classroom for the first time and realized how few women there were. Then she had to prove that she deserved to be there, because she was a women. She had to stand out without wanting to stand out. Where she lived, it was always assumed it would be ‘manly women’ in her school of engineering, so she had to balance her femininity and getting respect from her fellow classmates and later on her work colleagues.
She comes from a patriarchal society, so she faced a lot of that kind of attitude when she was in the boardroom. For example, the men in the room believed that the women should serve the tea to the men regardless of work status, which would impact how women were perceived by their male colleagues.
How DID YOU BECOME RECOGNIZED AS WOMEN MOBILITY EXPERTS?
“As a woman, to become an expert in a field dominated by men, it is important that you know you stuff. Argue with knowledge. Do the work. People cannot argue with good results.”
You need to understand you identity. As a black, African woman, the odds were not stacked in her favour, but she did not take on the identity as the victim. Take you negative experiences and allow them to help build you, not drown you. Keep a positive attitude, instead of getting angry. You need a really strong support system at home and at work. You are not island, you need your colleagues at the end of the day.
As a woman in this industry and as a woman with mobility issues, Sandra has not only faced mental barriers but physical ones also. Sandra gives speeches on accessibility, and quite often the stage where she is supposed to talk is not accessible. At the beginning she found it frustrating, but now she uses it as a teaching moment to raise awareness rather than internalizing it. Knowledge is so important for success, but maybe even more so is the passion you bring with you. People won’t be interested in what you are saying if you are not excited and passionate about what you speaking about. Sandra wants to create a better world for people with accessibility issues and that is what drives her.
“Hard work, grit and time.”
Sandra is at the point where she is recognized as an expert and it has bee 10 years in the making. It’s important to tell the story of the lesson known character. Write your own story. And tell that story so that everyone hears it. At one point she almost gave up. She was invited to speak at a conference and when she did her presentation, she asked the people she respects for feedback and they told her its was ‘a nice story.’ So she got herself a speaking coach to help her tell her story in a way that she could really own it and get other people inspired. Get help and don’t get caught up in imposter syndrome.
WHAT ARE THE REGIONAL CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR MOBILITY IN YOUR AREA?
Unique challenges at the moment with Covid-19. Especially for women. Women use more public transit and still more involved in childcare. They are also in more care professions compared to men, so the transport network breaking down has had a massive effect on women. As far as unique challenges in the UK, there is more funding going into active transportation, so as long as women get a seat at the table when it comes to design and implementation, it should benefit everyone in society.
In Canada, the research has shown the same results with regards to the pandemic. There has been a lot of active transportation popup infrastructure. movmi has a global client roster and there is no more of appetite for collaboration were historically it was more about competition. In challenging times, humans always come together to solve problems and the pandemic is no different. This is one of the things Sandra hopes we remember moving forward out of Covid-19.
One of the biggest challenges in East Africa, is poor transport planning which gives power to the minority (the people who own private cars) over the majority (who walk, cycle etc.) This effects all vulnerable groups including women, children and the elderly. There is a lot of informality within the transport sector. In Kenya there is no formal network like trams, subway etc. There is a more organic transit network, which does not take into consideration accessibility and inclusivity. The buses there have high steps so if you have a disability, you won’t be able to use the public transportation. They do have a public disco bus, which can be fun for the younger demographic, but it is not so good for elderly people or pregnant ladies to ride, for example. The air quality is also very bad within East Africa due to older vehicles and not as much new mobility options.
There is a lot of innovation happening. Due to the great challenges they face, they have been innovative. They’ve created a cashless payment system and there are local manufacturing and assembly of electric vehicles within the region. The younger population is very active within the mobility sector. The government has also started to invest a lot more into public transportation.
HOW CAN MEN BE BETTER ALLIES WITH WOMEN THE MOBILITY AND IN THE WORKPLACE IN GENERAL?
“Communication is key. It’s sounds easy, but it’s not.”
Being inclusive with ‘women in mobility’ events. Inviting both genders is very important. Talking about it and talking about it a lot even if people don’t want to hear about it. Sharing relevant content within your network also gives people a gentle nudge.
JUDITH OGINGA MARTINS
Since men do hold position of power, they can be better allies by pushing incentives that encourage inclusivity within the workplace. They could support policies that include women and be willing to actively listen.
The first person that is often recommended is usually a man – so if you are asked for an expert recommendation within the field, add a woman’s name to the mix as well.
IS A LACK OF WOMEN OF COLOUR IN MOBILITY AS ISSUE?
Yes, we need to amplify these voices and also get them a seat at the table.
“Black women and all woman of colour have the same experiences. Allies are required in the sector.”
Fighting injustices, as not only a woman, but also a woman of colour is just another battle that needs to be faced, but not carried around. Work hard and know your stuff and successful results will not be disputed.
It’s a unique time to make a change. Most event organizers are aware they need to offer diversity, so perhaps this is your chance to apply and become a speaker. This is a great time to build your own visibility, so try and leverage it.
WHO ARE YOUR ROLE MODELS?
Trailblazers that include Amelia Earhart, Ellen Macarthur and both her grandmothers, among others. Women that have lived their lives dancing to the beat of their own tune but at the same time, changing and moving, social and environmental issues. When Sandra is feeling down about her work, she goes back and reads their stories to get inspired.
Judith has three role models. The first one is her mother, who is an icon in her own field and has been her everyday inspiration. Michelle Obama is next on the list. She is a women who flourished alongside a powerful man. She wasn’t just the support system, she was her own person. Oprah Winfrey is also on the list. She touches the lives of people with her insightful conversions and impacts the world using her vast resources.
Sandra loves Frida Kahlo because she uses her pain and disability to create her beautiful artwork. She has a transportation accident and has used her pain and suffering to create a wonderful body of art, including herself.
INTERESTED IN CREATING GENDER-EQUALITY WITHIN THE TRANSPORTATION INDUSTRY? APPLY FOR OUR ‘EMPOWER WOMEN IN SHARED MOBILITY’ PROGRAM HERE.
If you are a young company (<5 years) that is majority female (cis or trans women, non-binary, gender-fluid or gender non-conforming people) owned (51%+) and offers a product or service that falls under the shared mobility industry, please apply for the 2021 Empower Women in Shared Mobility Program.
We will be showcasing 3 companies and the winning company will receive a 12 month mentoring package, access to the entire EmpowerWisM network (partners, judges and movmi) and will be invited to different opportunities to showcase their work!
Why Should you apply?
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE #EMPOWERWISM here
If you have any questions about the ‘Empower Women in Shared Mobility’ program or want to be involved, get in touch with us here. Please feel free to share this article with your network and potential candidates.