Inherent Gender Bias Creates Safety Issues in Cities

An examination of gendered perceptions of safety in urban spaces

Research done by Leading Cities suggests that the inherent bias of the traditionally male-dominated field of urban design has a profound effect on how women perceive their safety—especially while walking within cities. In the recently released Walk with Women report, Leading Cities research fellows, Julianna Vélez-Duque and Shagun Sethi from Colombia University deliver insightful analysis of the unbalanced perception of safety within urban landscapes among men and women.

The report follows two intrinsic questions: Which elements of urban design impact women’s perception of fear while walking in a city? And how do these elements correlate for men and women differently?

“Cities will never truly be inclusive if we don’t understand and rectify the inherent gender bias within traditional urban design,” said Michael Lake, President & CEO of Leading Cities. “Unlocking the full potential of approximately 50% of the population can have a tremendously powerful and transformative impact on the experiences, opportunities, and economies of cities around the world.”

The groundbreaking research done by Vélez-Duque and Sethi reveals an unfortunate facet of urban landscapes that until now has gone unrecognized. Their findings suggest that women are subject to more stress due to the fear for their safety and that specific elements of urban design can make them feel safe/unsafe. Furthermore, these insufficiently planned cityscapes restrict women’s access to the city, alienating them from public space.

“The impact of this long-overdue study is anchored less in the results and more in the powerful validation that the results provide to common ways of thinking and our collective acceptance,” said Lake. “This report gives us cause and purpose to challenge what has been accepted for too long.”

To read the Walk with Women report, visit

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