From little girls to grand-mothers, women are experiencing urban life very differently to men. It is important to make sure that when we design solutions for cities, that we plan our urban environment and develop technologies that take into account the whole population.
That is why this month, in honour of International Women’s Day, we would like to give a voice to ordinary women from all around the world. How do they live in their cities? What do they like? What are their expectations for tomorrow?
We defend a more gender balanced approach toward smart cities. Discover the extremely interesting testimonial of Diane below.
Diane Lapaque is 38 years old, even if she looks way younger. She is an entrepreneur, CEO and co-founder of 1,2,3 kiD
A mother of three boys ranging from 3 to 10 years old, Diane lives in Lausanne, Switzerland.
She doesn't want to choose only one favourite city, so her top cities worldwide are Annecy, Biarritz, Bordeaux, Montreal and with a stretch she could add London.
Diane spot a very specific issue for women, and we would like to thank her for highlighting this specific one!
How do you feel as a woman and as a mother in the city/ in public spaces?
I think that overall, I need to breathe, even in the city. Most of the cities I have chosen above, including the one where I live, are open towards the sea, a lake or the mountain. I only ever lived for a few months in a very large city like Paris and just felt like I was going to choke. As a kid, I remember feeling very threatened by the crowd, tight spaces: I felt squeezed all the time and did not find city walks very enjoyable.
I really want to avoid my family experiencing this same feeling. Here, kids can go to school alone: there is a whole system with adults watching kids at crossroads between your house and the school. Drivers are very respectful. It feels very safe. You can also find kids’ play areas all around the city which makes it much easier to convince kids to go on a shopping trip…
But this is very rare and I would not feel comfortable giving so much freedom to my kids anywhere else.
In your opinion, do you have the same access as men to public spaces?
I would say yes, except when it comes to… public bathrooms. I am sorry but we were not born equal on this: if my kids need to pee and there is no proper bathroom, they will find a tree to make this moment more enjoyable. If I don’t find a proper bathroom, well … a tree would maybe make it memorable but certainly not enjoyable. We are definitely not equal there.
My husband though (and to some extent my dad), would not tell you the same. They would feel that we are not equal when it comes to walking in a dark street late at night. That doesn’t scare me. Again, the problem is more about the crowd for me, probably because I am too short!
What is the first thing that you would like to change in your city right now?
Pollution from cars and/or bicycle lanes: we live in a nice small city, close to the lake and the mountain but because the city is made of hills, two things can be difficult:
Firstly, cars. Pollution tends to be higher because of the hilly nature of the city, and when you walk along the pavement, you feel like you are in Beijing
Second, bicycle lanes. I don't feel safe carrying my kids on a bike or having them biking by my side in certain areas. It is okay on the weekend but bikes could replace other transportation means if it were safer and also easier to park your bike safely!
How do you think new technologies can improve cities, especially for women?
This is not specific to women, but we could definitely invent something that would absorb car emissions (well, you would tell me it would be easier to change cars to electric ones, which makes sense as well).
A crazy idea would be many super-secret bathrooms hidden around the city. You can only find them and access them thanks to an app. When you enter, the light is nice and welcoming (and works because that is another inequality: what kind of woman wants to pee in the dark?) And there is also a space for taking care of kids there. A place that feels safe and cosy.
Another idea would be some sort of system that would help to make it safer for people to ride on bikes with kids. Really separating cars, pedestrians and bikes in a clear-cut way with light systems, smart lanes, whatever would make sense. Of course, if the smart lanes could also give an electric boost when it comes to climbing hills, even better.
From your experience, what is a ‘smart city’?
I would say that a smart city is a city where you can circulate easily, you feel like you can breathe and where you feel safe all everywhere.