As we celebrate International Women’s Day, Dr. Nancy Vandycke, Program Manager of the Sustainable Mobility for All (SuM4All) initiative and an Economic Advisor at the World Bank’s Transport Global Practice, has been recognized by the international community for her contribution to the global mobility agenda. Nancy is among the top global influencers selected by the German-led Transforming Urban Mobility initiative (TUMI) for a new flagship project showcasing “Remarkable Women in Transport.” Other notable awardees include Violeta Bulc, European Commissioner for Transport, along with Robin Chase, founder of Zipcar. Following this announcement, we sat down with Nancy to learn more about her experience leading the SuM4All initiative and find out what inspired her to take on the sustainable mobility agenda.
What led to the creation of SuM4All?
Nancy: The transport sector is a highly complex environment. It is made up of multiple modes, actors, and initiatives, each working in isolation but also competing against each other for visibility. In 2015, when the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were launched, transport was one of the few sectors that did not get its own SDG—in large part because the relevant stakeholders failed to come together and influence the global decision-making process with a cohesive agenda. This also happened with the Paris Climate Agreement. There was clearly a leadership vacuum in the international transport architecture. At the Climate Action Summit 2016, the World Bank proposed bringing together interested stakeholders under one umbrella, to support the implementation of the SDGs and achieve sustainable mobility. Out of this call for action, Sustainable Mobility for All (SuM4All) was born. Formally established in January 2017, SuM4All has brought together 55 leading transport organizations so far, with one mission: to transform the future of mobility.
What was your role in SuM4All?
Nancy: Well, my job was essentially to translate this idea into reality, and build a global coalition of transport organizations determined to make a change. I got to work, putting together a team, bringing key organizations to the table, and using the SuM4All platform to position sustainable mobility at the center of the global development agenda. We are now two years in and have tangible results to show for it. As the first comprehensive assessment of the global transport sector across all modes, our Global Mobility Report 2017 garnered widespread media attention. Building on these findings, we developed a Global Roadmap of Action Toward Sustainable Mobility with 190 concrete policy proposals that are now being fine-tuned through a worldwide consultation. We also just released our first Annual Report to take stock of what has been accomplished and outline the next steps. Through this work, we have made significant headway in reshaping the global conversation on mobility.
Congratulation on the TUMI award! How do you feel about this recognition?
Nancy: I feel grateful, energized and more committed than ever to advancing this agenda. I share this recognition with our SuM4All member organizations and the secretariat. Their dedication and trust helped build this initiative from the ground up. Along this journey, I have learned a lot about many players in the transport space and about myself. I also have learned about the importance of not balking at challenges, staying loyal to your vision, and working together. As a development practitioner, I realized that it is indeed possible to have an impact on global development processes if you really set your mind to it.
Where do you derive your inspiration from?
Nancy: From the conviction that our children deserve a better future. While the world has made impressive strides in poverty reduction, health, or food security, global mobility seems to be moving in the opposite direction and threatens to undermine the progress that we have made in other areas. Today, we see children being forced to go to school wearing masks because of air pollution; women being afraid to travel by public transport due to the risk of sexual harassment; commuters wasting large portions of their lives stuck in traffic, and young people being killed in road crashes. The car-centric mobility systems we have today were designed over a hundred years ago. It’s high time we reinvented them.
Transport has historically been a male-dominated industry. What are your views on this? What insights can you share with other women?
Nancy: There is no denying that women are underrepresented across the sector. This is certainly unfair and may feel demoralizing to young females who are contemplating a career in transport. In the face of bias and discrimination, my advice to them is simple: as difficult as it might be, you have to block out the noise and move steadfastly toward your goals. It could mean you’ll have to work twice as hard. But in the end, you’ll have the satisfaction to know that your success is the result of nothing but your own hard work. In my interactions with transport stakeholders around the world, I see many women embrace this mindset and achieve recognition against the odds. If we keep it up, we can help bring home the message that skills, not gender, should be the sole basis for appreciating someone’s potential contribution to the world. My hope is that, by doing so, we can foster a culture of equal opportunities where no one bats an eyelash when they see a woman in a cockpit, behind the wheel, or in a boardroom.