The Gender Dimension to Infrastructure

Contrary to popular belief, infrastructure is not gender neutral. Women and girls around the world remain disproportionately burdened by a lack of access to basic infrastructure services like clean water, sanitation, and safe public transport. The demand for—and use-patterns of—infrastructure by men, women and the LGBTQI community differ significantly due to the gendered live realities. Yet, despite the existence of such differences, infrastructure is often planned, built and operated in a gender-blind manner.

Investing in more sustainable infrastructure and promoting gender equality are developmental priorities of the Agenda 2030. Infrastructure influences the achievement of all targets within SDG 5 ‘Gender Equality’.

Economic growth and social mobility are highly dependent from inclusive and gender responsive infrastructure. According to the OECD, applying a gender-lens to infrastructure development would increase the total GDP of its member states by 2.5% until 2050.

How can we adress Gender Equality Issues?

Integrating Women’s Perspectives in Urban Planning

In a project called Frauen-Werk-Stadt, female architects in Vienna designed a new neighbourhood that specifically took into account the everyday patterns of women and their needs. It includes flexible housing layouts, meeting areas and a design to reduce long travel distances.

Ensuring safe and reliable public transport

The multi-actor initiative for safe transport ITPS aims at reducing sexual harassment and other forms of violence against female users of public transport in El Salvador. In a pilot project in 2019, the design of bus stops and the interior of the vehicles was improved on route 101B to create safe spaces for women.

Gender Mainstreaming in Human Resources

The rural development BAIF Research Foundation in India gradually changed its human resources policies and introduced a gender mainstreaming policy at project in 2002. This included a Complaints Committee headed by a woman, increased availability of paid maternity leaves and a policy that women must be a part of decision-making processes.

What is the issue?

Insufficient infrastructure services have a disproportionate impact on women's and girls' time use.
Women: 54minutes
Men: 6minutes
200,000,000

Hours per day

Female professionals are underrepresented in infrastructure planning, design and implementation.
  • Female
  • Male
For women in particular, inadequate infrastructure exacerbates the impact of a crisis like the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Women
  • Men

Mainstreaming Gender across the Infrastructure Lifecycle

Here are a number of steps to make infrastructure more gender-responsive.

To ensure that infrastructure addresses the service needs of men and women alike, gender considerations have to be systematically integrated into projects. The right policy, legal and regulatory frameworks can act as key enablers for mainstreaming gender into infrastructure development and ultimately improve the role of women as contributors to the sector. 

Strategy

A Gender Action Plan (GAP) is an important roadmap tool that outlines specific activities and tangible benefits. A GAP allocates financial and human resources and sets concrete targets along a timeline.

Operation and Decommissioning

Gender-Responsive O&M Mechanisms acknowledge the importance of community ownership and ensure that projects provide equitable services to everyone. Gender-responsive Monitoring and Evaluation includes the dissemination of lessons learned and an impact analysis.

Project Planning

A Gender Analysis (GA) provides an evidence-based project design that is responsive to contextual gender-needs. Environmental and Social Impact Assessments (ESIAs) help to evaluate possible externalities of infrastructure projects.

Construction

Gender-Responsive Construction Supervision and equal employment measures not only enhance safety and security but also help integrate more women into the workforce through skills training and technical assistance.

Financing and Procurement

Gender-Sensitive Procurement integrates enabling requirements for women owned businesses/female workers. Gender-Responsive Budgets (GRB) address differentiated needs and interests by allocating expenditure towards the well-being and inclusion of women.

  • Strategy

    A Gender Action Plan (GAP) is an important roadmap tool that outlines specific activities and tangible benefits. A GAP allocates financial and human resources and sets concrete targets along a timeline.

  • Operation and Decommissioning

    Gender-Responsive O&M Mechanisms acknowledge the importance of community ownership and ensure that projects provide equitable services to everyone. Gender-responsive Monitoring and Evaluation includes the dissemination of lessons learned and an impact analysis.

  • Project Planning

    A Gender Analysis (GA) provides an evidence-based project design that is responsive to contextual gender-needs. Environmental and Social Impact Assessments (ESIAs) help to evaluate possible externalities of infrastructure projects.

  • Construction

    Gender-Responsive Construction Supervision and equal employment measures not only enhance safety and security but also help integrate more women into the workforce through skills training and technical assistance.

  • Financing and Procurement

    Gender-Sensitive Procurement integrates enabling requirements for women owned businesses/female workers. Gender-Responsive Budgets (GRB) address differentiated needs and interests by allocating expenditure towards the well-being and inclusion of women.

Interested in learning more?

Thematic Brief: Gender-Responsive Infrastructure

By: The Solutions Lab - Scaling for Sustainable Infrastructure

This thematic brief informs why infrastructure is not gender-neutral and what we can do to make it responsive to the needs of women and girls.

Sustainable Connectivity - Closing the Gender Gap in Infrastructure

By: OECD

In this policy report, OCED informs about the different roles women have as users of and contributors to infrastructure.

Infrastructure for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women

By: UNOPS

This report takes a sectoral look at gender and infrastructure and combines the topic with project case studies by UNOPS.

Gender and energy

By: European Institute for Gender Equality

This publication highlights that energy policy is not gender neutral. Practical examples are used to describe the integration of the gender dimension into the policy cycle.

Relevant sustainability tools