Is Segregation of Genders the Only Way to Provide Safe Business Travel for Women?

How does all the amazing momentum for women’s issues  (#MeTooWomen’s March, etc) translate to the world of business travel?  Naturally, that’s what we’re wondering here at Go Jane Go.  We try not to let our minds replay the tape of the Trump accuser talking about how he groped her from his seat in first class.  But seriously, is there anything happening to improve business travel for women?

Many female business travelers have endured flights seated next to an insufferable male row mate or received puzzled, what-is-SHE-doing-here?  looks when occupying first class, among the myriad examples of what we face. But in India, the Delhi-based airline carrier Vistara has taken real action, introducing an industry-first service for women exclusively.

Vistara’s  “Woman Flyer” initiative ensures that only window or aisle seats are assigned to solo women travelers, eliminating the peril of the dreaded middle seat. Launched last March, the service is one of a series of measures introduced by the airline to protect solo female fliers, described as a “sincere effort to ensure peace of mind of our women customers,” Sanjiv Kapoor, Vistara’s chief strategy and commercial officer, told Bloomberg.

Vistara also provides staff at baggage claim areas to assist female travelers with their luggage  and help women book airport-authorized taxis.  It even will provide escorts to the taxi stand.

Given the generally shabby treatment of women in India, these measures border on the remarkable, or at least signs of progress.

Poised to become the world’s sixth-largest business travel market by next year, according to one study, India also has recently introduced train coaches solely for women and children in major cities as Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai.  When the trains stop, male inspectors guide men away from the carriage doors. Those who fail to comply risk arrest or fine.

“The heights that women around the world have scaled needs no validation,” Deepa Chadha, Vistara’s senior vice-president, was quoted as saying. “Women are a major force that makes economies stronger and societies healthier. The company plans to expand beyond India and if India wants to strengthen its position as a business travel hub, services such as Vistara’s initiative could pave the way forward.”

Are airlines in the USA even having conversations about how to appeal to and protect their female business travelers?  Anyone?  Bueller?  Bueller?  We don’t see it.  

Yet other examples of policy and consciousness changes for women travelers can be found in Mexico.  In Mexico City, where surveys have found that as many as 90 percent of women riders don’t feel safe, a seat on a subway car (designated “Exclusively for Men”) was made to resemble the lower part of a man’s body. All the parts, actually.  The point of the so-called “Penis Seat” was raising awareness of sexual harassment.  According to the sign posted above the seat, “It’s uncomfortable to sit here, but it’s nothing compared to the sexual violence suffered by women on their daily commutes.”

The campaign is called “No Es De Hombres” (rough translation = “this is not what being a man is about”) and the intent is to expose men to situations commonly experienced by women on public transit.  WOW!  A country trying to teach empathy?  I bet Trump is taking notes.  Sorry, I digress. But all of this represents a start. As the late poet Robert Frost famously  wrote,  “But I have promises to keep/And miles to go before I sleep/And miles to go before I sleep.”  

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Like most matters of import, it’s complicated. There are advocates for and against seating women in a separate contained area. While women-only transportation policies have been proven popular and successful among many passengers, as this article describes, they also have been criticized for suggesting that women must be segregated in order not to be harassed.

 

Which statement do you agree/identify more with?  Tell us in the comments section.

  1. Although women-only transport may be an effective means of reducing unwanted sexual behavior on public transport in some countries, they are essentially ‘short-term fixes’ and reinforce a message that women must be contained and segregated to be protected.
  2. Women-only transport offers a comfortable atmosphere and peace of mind, guaranteeing safety during a commute or trip. For a finite amount of time, women are free from the male stares and aggression that assault them elsewhere in their daily travels and it’s a very effective policy in keeping women safe.

Journey On, Janes!

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Is Segregation of Genders the Only Way to Provide Safe Business Travel for Women?
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With some airlines and major cities taking measures to make travel for women safer, are extremes required? Or have we gone too far past what we should have to do to stay safe?
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Go Jane Go
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  • We really need to champion that #1 perspective — these are all such deep rooted, long standing issues that need more than a bandaid or quick fix. Great piece, Tina! Raises questions I haven’t read elsewhere.

  • While I reluctantly agree MORE with the former statement than the latter, both statements are highly problematic. While the first statement acknowledges that segregated travel is only a temporary solution, it doesn’t go far enough. It still holds within it the idea that women traveling and, indeed, in public life, are some kind of anomaly. In 2018, the onus is not on women to do anything differently or to be looked upon as anything then a human in a public space. The root of the problem lies within men, not women. The focus and the conversation belongs there. What is being done to address harassment with the would-be harassers? Is there any awareness campaign around it directed at men? If not, why not? This is the culture change that is a real solution. Not quarantining women as if they carried some disease.

    • Christina – thanks for the comment. Absolutely agree it’s not us, it’s them. Vistara has taken a huge first step and the Mexican program is definitely trying to get men to see they’re the problem. Step wise better than nothing. And in the US the current elevation of women’s issues is making progress on the dialogue. More men ARE speaking out to support our issues, albeit slowly. We’re going to take your comments to heart and we are going to start running some stories and social media directed at men to envelop them in the solution. THANKS!!

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