Melbourne trials female figures on pedestrian crossings to ‘reduce unconscious bias’

Replacing male figures in pedestrian crossing lights with women is a step towards gender equality and will “reduce unconscious bias”, an Australian lobby group has said, as Melbourne rolled out a trial scheme on Tuesday.

Ten lights at the intersection of Swanston and Flinders streets in the centre of Melbourne will be fitted out with female figures as part of a 12-month trial spearheaded by the Committee of Melbourne.

The not-for-profit organisation comprising more than 120 community groups and businesses is striving for equal representation of men and women at all crossings across the state of Victoria with its Equal Crossing initiative.

The initiative came at no cost to taxpayers – a spokeswoman specified that a local electrical company absorbed the cost as part of its sponsorship. The first lights changed were outside Flinders Street station on Tuesday.Martine Letts, the committee’s chief executive, told the ABC that having only men represented at pedestrian crossings discriminated against women.

“The idea is to install traffic lights with female representation, as well as male representation, to help reduce unconscious bias … We know that Melbourne is the world’s most liveable city and we would really like to see Melbourne also known as the world’s most equal city.”

Last year the City of Yarra area commemorated its first female councillor, Mary Rogers, in a walking signal at an intersection in Richmond.

But the response to rolling out generic female figures to the rest of Melbourne has been mixed, with some criticising it as lip service towards gender equality.“I’m all for doing anything we can for gender equity, but really?” he was quoted as saying by the Herald Sun. “Unfortunately, I think this sort of costly exercise is more likely to bring derision.” Read more here.

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