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FEATURE STORYJanuary 30, 2023

Making Way for Women in Transport and Logistics: Promising Practices in Europe and Central Asia

Mane Malkhasyan writing on a whiteboard during her internship

Mane Malkhasyan at her internship with Armenia's Ministry of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure

The absence of women from careers and decision-making positions in transport and logistics means they are largely excluded from this vital sector of economic, social, and environmental development. Yet, several recent World Bank-financed transport and logistics projects across Europe and Central Asia are creating new opportunities and partnerships—improving women’s lives, while helping drive talent and bring new perspectives to the sector.

On average, women make up only 23 percent of employees in the transport, storage, and communication sector across the Europe and Central Asia regionwith many engaged in low-paying jobs, often among administration, sales, catering, and cleaning, while men dominate engineering, driving and managerial roles. And women face significant barriers in accessing engineering and senior management roles that steer development in this critical field. Yet, several countries in the region are taking steps to reverse this trend, with recent gender initiatives demonstrating promise: attracting talent, bringing women’s voices into the policy discussion, and helping drive a more inclusive and resilient future for the sector and the wider economy.

In 2022, Azerbaijan repealed 674 job restrictions on women’s employment, working with the World Bank to show that these roles, such as driving a large bus or laying asphalt,  posed no specific threat to women’s health. This major reform will improve women’s access to jobs and positively impact on Azerbaijan's Strategy for Socio-Economic Development 2022-26.

As part of improving rail freight connectivity in Türkiye through the World Bank-financed “Rail Logistics Improvement” project, the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure (MoTI) is running a female internship program that has accepted 70 interns since 2021. The program involves a 20-day paid internship in roles across MoTI, including whole of department training and project experience.  

One of those interns was Habibe Aydın, who worked with the MoTI’s Road Construction Unit. “I learned about technical specifications and terms of reference. We understood more about interoperability. I learned about the master plans for the country. We had calls with stakeholders, and I prepared an Internship Working Plan.”

In Armenia, as part of the World Bank-financed Second Additional Financing to the Lifeline Road Network Improvement Project, the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure, jointly with the National University of Architecture and Construction of Armenia has developed a program offering women engineering graduates' six-month paid internships in engineering, design, and road safety, which enabled interns to be part of a project life cycle.  

Similar initiatives are underway in Albania and Serbia.

Enthusiasm, Exposure, and Opportunity  

Across the region, interns and agencies are reporting high levels of enthusiasm for these initiatives, with strong signs that staff are ready for change and proud of the programs they are running. 

Mane Malkhasyan completed a six-month internship in the Road Department with the Ministry in Armenia “It was very interesting, very practical. We rehabilitated 12 roads while I was an intern. The other interns and I were engaged in preparing and reviewing documents. I have been working with expert engineers and now I have experience with the road sector.”

These types of programs are improving women’s employability and, in some cases, leading directly to jobs.  Following her internship in the Roads Department, Mane was offered a post in the Ministry’s State Budget section.

These internships also help trainees find mentors, develop their networks, and consider long-term career paths.

Yaren Bal says that after her internship with MoTI's Department of Railway infrastructure she shifted her career and is now consulting on projects “it’s really helped me to find a job.” Sensing her growing employability, she plans to apply for internships in Germany for the summer to gain international project experience.

I really enjoyed working with my supervisor, she’s the only environmental engineer in the department. She knows everything, and I learned a lot from her. I really loved working with her, that was a joyful part of this internship for me.
Yaren Bal
Yaren Bal
Intern, Rail Infrastructure Department, Türkiye's MOTI
Yaren Bal at her internship with Türkiye's Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure

 Yaren at her internship at MoTI's Department of Rail Infrastructure

Other interns also see an improvement in their job prospects.  Habibe observes that “this internship is having an impact because whenever I submit my CV, I can say that [employers] are taking me into account.”

Improving Gender Equality

Early reviews of these initiatives show that they are already contributing to better gender equality outcomes in the sector and producing other positive impacts, including:

  • Increasing women’s capacity and interest in transport and logistics, with interns working on construction sites and gaining practical knowledge about the work of government ministries and stakeholders.
  • Improving women’s employability, with employers more confident that these women have technical skills and professional experience in the sector.
  • Opening pathways to engineering and related roles, defying norms that relegate women to “back office” roles in the sector.
  • Strengthening links between public entities and universities. To overcome the limited female talent pipeline in engineering and logistics, government ministries and universities are partnering together, with signs that these relationships will continue to grow.
  • Opening the sector to new perspectives and voices, driven by women’s different lived experiences, with the accompanying potential for innovation and transportation networks becoming more responsive to the needs of women and girls.

Yet, despite the appetite for change in the region, without strong support at senior levels these female internship programs risk being scaled down or discontinued. Realizing the benefits of legal reform and efforts to attract women to the sector will require a deeper commitment and cultural change within agencies, the private sector, and the wider public.

Nonetheless, there is growing evidence that many in the transport sector across the Europe and Central Asia region are internalizing the need to incorporate women’s voices and talent and to tackle occupational sex segregation and other significant barriers to equality of economic opportunity between men and women. In doing so, these types of initiatives will help revitalize the transport sector, while improving the lives of women across the region.

Thanks to Nato Kurshitashvili, Karla Gonzalez Carvajal, Kelly Saunders, Elena Lungu, Luis Blancas, Murad Gurmeric, and Nora Mirzoyan for their support in helping to highlight the voices of these young women internees breaking into the transport and logistics sector.



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