Women at risk in a world still made for men

Build a new world: Cement bags and bricks are built to be carried and used by men, discouraging female builders.

On International Women’s Day, a new book is shedding light on how everything from smartphones to stab vests are designed for the “average” man, with dangerous consequences for women.

The average smartphone display is now 5.5 inches wide. An adult man’s hand can fit around a phone that size. But a woman, whose hand is on average only one inch bigger than the screen, will struggle.

We live in a world designed by and for men. This is the message of Caroline Criado Perez’s new book, Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, which came out yesterday.

Criado Perez is a journalist and feminist activist, who successfully campaigned to get Jane Austen on the new £10 banknote in 2017.

After that, she was responsible for a statue of suffragist leader Millicent Fawcett being erected in Parliament Square.

Now, Criado Perez has turned her attention to the “gender data gap”.

Very little scientific research has been done on women compared to men. Voice technology made by Google has been found to be 70% better at recognising male voices.

Seats and seatbelts were tested on male crash dummies, which might explain why women are 47% more likely to be seriously injured when they are in a car accident.

In all her research, Criado Perez was most shocked to discover that women are more likely to die from heart attacks because “classic” heart-attack symptoms such as severe chest pain are more common to men. Women are more likely to have stomach pain and breathlessness.

A man’s world

Why is there a gender data gap? Are scientists and inventors sexist? Or is it too easy to forget that women exist when men are still mostly in charge? Historically, it has been easier and cheaper to study men rather than take female hormones into account.

So now what do we do? Should we redesign society so it works for women and men? Criado Perez argues that studying women’s health would pay for itself by saving money on healthcare when things go wrong. Is change on the horizon?

You Decide

  1. Is it easier to be a man than a woman?

Activities

  1. Is feminism still needed in the UK today? Separate your thoughts into three bullet points. Compare your answers in groups. Do you disagree or agree?

Some People Say...

“Why can’t a woman be more like a man?”

Professor Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady, by George Bernard Shaw

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The use of male crash test dummies in simulated car accidents is particularly dangerous as women have low bone density, less muscle mass and other differences.
What do we not know?
Whether the gender data gap is closing. In the US particularly, there has been an effort to include women in more clinical studies after years of leaving them out.

Word Watch

£10 banknote
Criado Perez began her campaign after the Bank of England announced plans to remove the only woman who had featured on banknotes, Elizabeth Fry, who was an English prison reformer in the early 19th century.
Suffragist
Campaigners to get women the vote, they believed in peaceful protest, while the suffragettes were more militant.
Scientific research
Women are more likely to have negative reactions to drugs than men are.
Hormones
Chemicals that affect the body.

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