Gender Commuting Gap

by Sep 12, 20230 comments

Close the gender commuting gap

The gender commuting gap has emerged as one of the key factors in the way women approach job search and career planning.


We all know about the gender pay gap, but perhaps not the gender commuting gap.

In today’s rapidly evolving world, the gender commuting gap has emerged as one of the key factors in the way women approach job search and career planning. The resulting disparities all contribute to the gender pay gap and other inequities between men and women both in the workforce and at home. Commuting, an essential part of the daily work routine for many, has revealed a significant gender difference.


gender commuting gap

The gender commuting gap

In Europe a study found that “commuting time has increased during the last three decades in Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Belgium, France, and the Netherlands, and we find decreasing trends in commuting time in Austria, Germany, Greece and Portugal.” 

On average, men are willing to accept a 14% longer commute than women. The difference between both genders is most pronounced (23.7%) for those who are married with children, but remains significant (7.7 percent) in the case of single individuals without children. .

The difference in average commute times in the US by gender – 17.4 minutes for women vs. 25.3 minutes for men – represents a 31.1% “gender commuting gap” in favour of women, who spend only 68.9 minutes commuting to work for every 100 minutes men spend commuting on average (same as the OECD average). That gender gap is much greater than the 18.1% “gender pay gap”

Pre-Covid research from the U.K. Office for National Statistics found that women “are more likely than men to leave their job over a long commute. When deciding whether to leave their job, women are more likely than men to accept lower pay in favour of a shorter commute, contributing to the overall gender pay gap.” Women have a shorter daily work commute than men and this gap widens after having children.

The commuting differential is reflected in salary. The longer the commute, the higher the pay and vice versa. Research from INSEAD suggests that the gender commuting gap contributes as much as 10% to the gender pay.

Why women choose shorter commutes

Despite the fact that longer commutes usually to large business centres pay better, women favour short commutes (15 minutes or less), while men do the majority of longer journeys (an hour or more).

Women frequently make job search and career choices based on the invisible load or the “third shift” around their family commitments.  Access to schools and child care or family members who can support them, rather than the job itself plays a key role in job search activities.  Although a shorter commute can be helpful in the short term, that decision impacts their longer-term earning potential and overall career prospects.

In Europe car ownership is split almost equally between men and women, although in the UK women owned only one-third of cars in 2017, forcing them to be reliant on public transport which can be less reliable and slower. Carpooling is common and car journeys to work are more or less equally split between men and women.  The U.S is a car-based culture.

gender commuting gap

Closing the Gap

To address the gender commuting gap and promote gender equity in the workforce, various initiatives can be taken. These are a mix of organisational changes and governmental initiatives.


  1. Flexible Work Arrangements: Encouraging and normalising flexible work arrangements for all employees, regardless of gender, can help mitigate the commuting gap and improve work-life balance.
  2. Provision of childcare facilities: In areas of high-cost childcare or low access to daycare centres organisations can provide in-house facilities as part of enhancing their employer brand and making their businesses more attractive to women.
  3. Equal Pay and Career Opportunities: Ensuring equal pay and providing equal opportunities for career advancement can empower women to choose jobs based on interest and suitability, rather than proximity. Higher levels of pay gives them the flexibility to outsource some of their unpaid work.


  1. Boost local Investment:  Governments can encourage investment in local economies, job growth, and infrastructure can create employment opportunities closer to residential areas, reducing commuting distances for both men and women.
  2. Improved transport infrastructure: Improving safety in public transportation and creating safe commuting spaces can alleviate the safety concerns that disproportionately affect women.
  3. Provision of affordable day care: access to affordable high-quality daycare centres allows parents to make career choices based on the roles on offer, without navigating the tricky divide between professional and work commitments.

The impact of the gender commuting gap

The gender commuting gap represents an integral aspect of gender inequality in the modern workforce.  It is critical for organisations to address this to attract the best possible talent and maybe we are seeing a shift.

Guests at the Mercer Leapgen Meet Up  Erick Ko and Boyd Reid of Hop in Technologies shared how they are addressing the impact of commuting on employees. Their platform offers logistics and planning software to organise corporate shuttles for the daily commute.  They focus on improving access to the workplace which benefits employees and employers. Easier, safer, and more cost-effective commutes increase employee satisfaction and give organisations access to greater pools of talent.

We need to see more of these initiatives.


If you want to to fix your female talent pipeline contact 3Plus NOW

Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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