Gendered spaces in urban design

Gender refers to the social, cultural and economic attributes and roles associated with being male, female or non-binary. These attributes can significantly influence how individuals experience and navigate spaces. This is how we end up with “gendered spaces”. Understanding these nuances is essential for creating inclusive and equitable environments.

The traditional division of labour can influence spatial patterns. For example women bear the primary household tasks which can affect their travel patterns.

A woman in a bright yellow coat and black hat is walking away from the camera down a street.

A short article by Kavita Dehalwar highlights three aspects that require consideration in spatial planning. Safety and security, universal design and accessibility, and participation and decision-making.

Safety and security

Women and transgender individuals may experience harassment which reduces their perceptions of safety. When this occurs it restricts freedom of movement and limits social and economic activity. Lighting, surveillance mechanisms can mitigate safety risks and engender a better sense of safety.

Universal design and accessibility

Gender-sensitive design considers how spaces are used by men, women and non-binary individuals. Gender-neutral facilities accommodating diverse identities and preferences reduces stigma and discrimination. Taking a universal design approach includes accessibility and convenience for everyone.

Participation and decision-making

Gender dynamics also influence participation in decision-making processes. Marginalised groups are often underrepresented in planning processes. This results in policies and intervention that inadvertently fail to address their needs. Co-designing with marginalised groups is one way forward.

The title of the short article is, Gender and Its Implications for Spatial Planning: Understanding the Impact.

Gender Equity in Design: A guide

Front cover of the Gender Equity in Design Guidelines.

Design impacts on the way we can navigate the world and participate. Gender equity in design is yet another element of designing inclusively. 

Rights, responsibilities and opportunities should not depend on gender. Treatment of women, men, trans and gender diverse individuals are often subject to stereotyping or generalisations about roles. But for many designers and policy makers gender equity is a new concept. So the Gender Equity in Design Guidelines are a great help. 

The City of Whittlesea in Victoria produced the Guide. As a local government authority the guide focuses on community facilities. It introduces the case for gender equity and has a focus on issues for women. While there is an emphasis on safety and easy access for women with children, gender diverse groups are included.  

What the guidelines cover

Many of the features capture the essence of universal design. The twenty page document covers site planning, concept design and documentation for:

  • Community centres
  • Maternal and child health
  • Youth facilities
  • Community pavilions
  • Aquatic and major leisure facilities
A young woman attends to a small child in a child seat on the back of the bicycle. The bike has a shopping basket.

The Guidelines acknowledge that any building project goes through several stages and has different stakeholders. Consequently, it only covers planning, concept design and detailed design and documentation. The construction phase is dependent upon the follow-through from planning and design.

The aim of the Guidelines look through a gender lens and is therefor not prescriptive. Consequently, regulatory standards and building code compliance and accessibility are outside the scope of the document. 

Gender Inclusive Urban Planning

Front cover of the Handbook. Blue background and white text.

A city that works well for women, girls, and gender non-conforming people of all ages and differing levels of capability supports economic and social inclusion. The World Bank ender inclusive planning and design is:

  • Participatory: actively including the voices of women, girls, and sexual and gender non-conforming people
  • Integrated: adopting a holistic, cross-cutting approach that centres gender throughout and promotes citizen-city relationship building
  • Universal: meeting the needs of women, girls, and gender non-conforming people of all ages and abilities
  • Knowledge-building: seeking out and sharing robust, meaningful new data on gender equity
  • Power-building: growing the capacity and influence of under-represented groups in key decisions
  • Invested-in: committing the necessary finances and expertise to follow through on intentional gender equity goals

Chapters cover the rationale for gender inclusion, foundations of planning and design, processes and project guidelines, case studies and further resources.

Urban planning and design shape the environment around us — and that shapes how we live, work, play, move, and rest. This handbook highlights the relationships between gender inequality, the built environment, and urban planning and design.

The 18MB file is downloadable directly or from The World Bank. An article in the Latin American Post summarises some of the content. 

A short video from The World Bank briefly explains some of the issues and what should be done. 

Accessibility Toolbar