Welcome to the Women in Mobillity (WiM)!

May 8, 2019

In an interview with WiM founders Sophia von Berg, Coco Heger-Mehnert and Anke Erpenbeck, the Women in Mobility explain why the place of women in mobility needs to be supported and a push for more visibility can succeed.

The WiM founders Coco Heger-Mehnert, Sophia von Berg and Anke Erpenbeck.

We're happy to welcome the Women in Mobility at the NMW19 and introducing their members in the coming weeks.

How did you start the Women in Mobility? How did the founders find one another?

Sophia visited a mobility event in Berlin in 2015. The topic focused on multimodality by looking at diversity and networking of modes of transport. Unfortunately, diversity was not really present when looking at the audience and podium. Only six women got together during the coffee break, which is way too few! But the professional discourse with the mobility-minded women was refreshing. There had to be a platform where this exchange could continue – thus the idea for the network was born! Coco and Sophia have known each other from various industry events and shared the same passion for mobility and everything digital. Anke was the social media and industry expert, which meant that she was the first choice to complete our startup team. We knew about the networking power of social media and went online with our first Women in Mobility groups on Facebook and Xing in the summer of 2015.

Meet the Women in Mobility

Why is there an need for a group such as the Women in Mobility?

Our motivation is to promote women and to advance sustainable mobility development. For us, both are closely related: Sustainable mobility is diverse and well-networked. For this we need visible diversity in the expert and decision-making bodies of the industry, as well as a willing cooperation by the key mobility players. Because of a lack on all counts, there is also a lack of diversity in mobility. Bringing together, making visible and empowering women from the most diverse mobility sectors is our contribution here. It's like a perpetuum mobile and the Women in Mobility are providing the starting energy. And because we all know that this is physically impossible, our energy supply is maintained until further notice, e.g. through regional meetings and events, an active online and offline exchange on professional and personal topics, speaker and job mediation or empowerment through various cooperations such as this one with the New Mobility World.

Where are the Women in Mobility active? How can one get connected with you? 

We base our networking on two pillars. On the one hand, social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Xing are used as digital meeting places. Important information is also shared via the @womeninmobility Twitter channel. The second pillar is personal meetings. There are four regional Women in Mobility Hubs in Berlin, Cologne, Hamburg and Munich, who regularly organise #MoveUps on-site and interregional gatherings at conferences, fairs and meetings. All interested women can find an overview of our digital network groups on our website. All dates and network meetings can be viewed here. Happy Networking 😊

Mary Barra is CEO at GM, Linda Jackson at Citroen. But according to a study by the Albright Foundation, German board members remain fairly homogeneous. But there is hope: Hildegard Wortmann switched to Audi and was the first woman to join the board. Why is it important to see more women in management positions in the mobility sector?

The same formula applies to all industries. Women are not better than men, nor is the inverse true. But together they are better. Diversity in leadership brings more innovation, resilience and, last but not least, greater profitability. In addition, the end consumer is usually the focus of the mobility industry. Industrial players want to become a mobility service provider, be close to the user, as well as covering the needs of the user AND the needs of the company with the same offer. This requires more diverse teams with a mix of approaches, ideas, perspectives, needs and roles. Gender diversity contributes to this.

While we believe that change comes from below, the decisions that have the greatest impact are often made at an executive level. And that's the problem: The mobility industry has a small proportion of women in leadership positions, and in many sectors of the mobility industry it is only 20% or less. We know that it is not because of the lack of qualifications of women. Homogeneous groups usually produce homogeneous groups – in other words, men hire men. Often it is the learned and lived management structures that are simply not attractive to many women. Prevailing ideas of presence, power and the "right" leadership skills are one-sided and often antiquated. Statements by women that their job is incompatible with the desire to have a baby summarise perfectly the probelmatics of the situation as it shows how both genders are still trapped in antiquated structures and thought patterns.

Women and men in leadership positions must support women wanting to have a career in their companies. This can be done by changing the framework conditions for ALL: part-time work for men and women, part-time leadership, job sharing at management level, home office, flexible working hours, company kindergartens, and much more.

Where do you see the future of mobility? 

We are so reluctant to talk about the "future of mobility". This gives the impression that we still have endless time to act. But politics and business must act very acutely and go into implementation. Our vision of sustainable mobility is aimed at diversity and networking. This means that different modes of transport and mobility services are always used where the given framework makes the most sense. The mobility offerings are designed to work together so that the customer can easily use them – simply providing new technologies, infrastructures and services is no solution. We do not believe in moralising statements about certain modes of transport, but here, too, a monoculture is not the answer. It simply does not make sense if a car with an average of 1.5 people drives an average of 24km/h through Berlin – and these statistics are 10 years old! In cities, the limiting resource is space and the life-prolonging resource is pure air. In the countryside, it is particularly important to think of people who can't, as of yet, drive, and those who can no longer control a vehicle.

Mobility has to be thought of in terms of ecology, society, and economy. The latter does not contradict subsidised mobility such as public transport, because without it, the traffic collapse would have happened already. Clean drives in individual and collective traffic, automation and the resulting increase in efficiency, MaaS with sharing and on-demand services, as well as digitisation result in a sustainable and user-oriented mobility mix.

Our network brings together women that represent the diversity of mobility. We are thus promoting the networking of areas such as the automotive industry, public transport, rail, bicycle traffic, air traffic, IT, mobility research and startups. These women create a bit of mobility every day in their occupations and vocations. We are not an initiative with concrete action and implementation plans in mobility design, but we make the women who are involved visible and provide opportunities for mutual empowerment.

The themes of NMW19 range from automation to connectivity to MaaS and urban mobility. Experts on these topics often come from the STEM disciplines, an area where women are more represented in medicine and biology, and less in mathematics and engineering. Does this have to change so that women can have more say in the mobility of the future?

Naturally we think that the STEM/MINT initiatives for girls and young women are very important. Studies show that in the first years at school, the interests and strengths of girls and boys are equally distributed. At this early stage, a variety of initiatives are already starting. There are also some valuable activities for MINT newcomers in the mobility industry, such as the MINTeinander conference of the women's network Allianz pro Schiene. We think that especially female role models strengthen the interest in mathematics and engineering. But we also realise that these "role models" are a rare sight. Therefore, we would like to use our online presence for such portraits of women in the future.

Nevertheless, we want to be clear: mobility is no longer a purely technical subject! It is no longer just about engine development, etc. Also, the programmed algorithm must be embedded in an overall system of a non-technical nature. Therefore, it is also about multi-faceted knowledge, behavioural patterns in the choice of transport choices, and the design of mobility services for different spatial structures. Ultimately, it is about the in-depth knowledge of user needs. Men often approach the topic from a background that is too technical. Therefore, the disciplines in which women are already very strong today are important for the design of sustainable mobility.

In addition to the constant encouragement and introduction of girls to technical professions, it is also necessary to introduce boys to a broader perspective on mobility. So there is a need for change on both sides.

Many thanks to the founders Sophia von Berg, Coco Heger-Mehnert and Anke Erpenbeck for this interview!