On 8 March 2023 – International Women’s Day – a conference titled „Public Transport is a Woman” was held at ZTM headquarters in Warsaw. The idea behind the event was to show that in a male-dominated industry such as public transport, women also demonstrate skills, clout and can effectively supervise and implement large projects.
Women professionally involved in public transport were invited to participate in the conference. It was held under the patronage of the Mayor of the City of Warsaw Rafał Trzaskowski and the matronage of the Warsaw Council of Women.
Is urban transport a woman? This was the question posed by Ewa Malinowska-Grupińska, Chairwoman of the Warsaw City Council, who opened the conference. – To a large extent, yes. Most passengers are women. Therefore, transport management should also include women, she explained.
The Chairwoman emphasised that females in management positions perform very well. She gave the example of the Warsaw local government, which benefits from the strength of women. They hold the positions of Deputy Mayors and Commissioners. Warsaw is a beacon that shines a light on the whole of Poland, she concluded.
WARSAW FOR WOMEN
Aldona Machnowska-Góra, Deputy Mayor of the City of Warsaw and Commissioner for Women’s Affairs, gave the opening presentation – „Equality in Warsaw – how the City Hall of Warsaw supports women’s empowerment”.
She dedicated a part of her presentation to feminatives in the Warsaw City Hall, i.e. the possibility of using female forms of job titles from 2021. Language shapes the younger generations’ assessment of the world, she explained. – If top positions have names only in the masculine genus, then especially in the eyes of young people, they are only meant for men.
WOMEN EXCEL IN TRANSPORT JOBS
Director of ZTM, Katarzyna Strzegowska’s presentation „A female perspective in the management of Warsaw Public Transport” focused on female passengers and female Warsaw Public Transport employees.
The majority of people using WPT are women. Women also excel in transport jobs. I will say more – they break the road traffic regulations less often than men, drive at lower speeds, lose control of the vehicle less often and they are more positive about using basic tools like safety belts and breathalysers, admitted the Director.
Asked what it is like to be a female head of a large organisation, she replied that, above all, it is interesting and creative, but at the same time, every day you feel responsible for a huge and important area of public transport.
Decisiveness, consistency, determination, openness, cooperativeness, creativity and a sense of responsibility and agency – these are just a few traits that come in handy when managing public transport, explained Director Strzegowska.
Warsaw Public Transport employees were invited to the debate “HERSTORIES of WPT – let’s get to know the stories of women who work for Warsaw passengers”: Agnieszka – a tram driver, Karolina and Paulina – ticket controllers, Mariola – a metro station duty officer, Dorota – a train guard from SKM (city trains), Monika – a bus driver and Joanna – an employee of the traffic security service of one of Warsaw’s bus operators, Mobilis. The conversation was moderated by the Spokeswoman for the City of Warsaw, Ms. Monika Beuth.
The women talked about how it came about that they work for the public transport. Coincidence, curiosity and a desire for change were the most common reasons mentioned by the participants in the debate.
The women also found a moment to exchange experiences about working with men in male-dominated professional environments. In most cases, men are supportive and believe in the skills of female co-workers. Nonetheless, women sometimes hear jokes and commentaries that they consider unacceptable: – We just have to set clear boundaries that we don’t want this kind of jokes, explained Agnieszka from Warsaw Trams.
Dorota from city trains SKM admitted that she spent years working in the office and decided to become the train guard after she divorced. She loves to be on the move and work with people. Her ex-husbant strongly disapproved of her idea of changing occupation.
Monika, the bus driver, has a degree in economy, but she also felt that she was not made to deal with excel sheets and office work. After years of working at the desk, she spontaneously decided to become a bus driver. – A lot of my friends couldn’t understand my decision, but I have never regreted it, she admitted. I love travelling. Wherever I go, I use public transport. Discovering public transport systems is a kind of hobby of mine, she said.
WE CAN BE EFFECTIVE, CONCRETE AND VALUED
The afternoon session was opened by the Chair of the Infrastructure and Investment Committee of the City of Warsaw, Iwona Wujastyk, with the words – Looking at Warsaw, I would say that women run the city’s public transport perfectly. She pointed out that a huge advantage of the Warsaw Public Transport is the degree of integration of the system, which makes using it easy and attractive.
PRESIDENTS, DIRECTORS, SUPERVISORS
The conference concluded with a debate: “Presidents, Directors, Supervisors – how women manage urban public transport?”. It was attended by: Renata Kaznowska – Deputy Mayor of the City of Warsaw, Małgorzata Gutowska – Director of the Metropolitan Transport Authority in the Upper-Silesian Metropoly, Anna Kowalska – Director of the Public Transport Authority in Rzeszów, Aleksandra Michalczewska-Kucharska – President of the Michalczewski bus operator company, Katarzyna Strzegowska – Director of ZTM Warsaw and Paulina Tyniec-Piszcz – Director of the Transport Department at the Wrocław City Hall. Marta Trzaskowska from ZTM in Warsaw moderated the conversation.
When asked how they got into the transport industry, the ladies most often replied that it was through a desire to act for the benefit of local communities. They had often previously been successful in other industries and their excellent organisation of work resulted in an offer to work on the development and improvement of public transport.
They also acknowledged that it was a male-dominated industry. – Twenty-five years ago when I started my career it was absolutely a man’s world. There were no women in the industry. Men viewed us strangely, but we got over it, recalled Director Strzegowska.
The subject of transport is attracting more and more women, but still most of the top positions in companies and local authorities are occupied by men. – Some time ago, my daughter, who is a few years old, was looking at photos from a presentation of new buses for Wrocław. At one point she asked: Mum, why are there so many men there and you as the only woman? I think this reflects well the situation in the transport industry, said Director Paulina Tyniec-Piszcz.
Finally, the participants in the debate were asked what men could learn from women. Among the qualities and skills included: empathy, a democratic management style, a cooperative attitude, the ability to admit a mistake and divisibility of attention.
The „Public Transport is a Woman” conference proved to be a much-needed event, responding to the need to highlight the presence and role of women in urban public transport and city management. It was an opportunity to celebrate the choices and professional successes of women who have chosen to pursue a career in this historically heavily masculinised sector. It clearly demonstrated that there is no place for gender discrimination in municipal transport units and companies.