Invisible Women

Roman Mars:
This is 99% Invisible. I’m Roman Mars.

Roman Mars:
Today’s show is about a design flaw that might be, and I’m not exaggerating here, the single-most common design flaw in human history. It potentially affects everything we have ever built. Its consequences are felt by more than half of people worldwide, and most people don’t even notice it, but that’s changing, thanks in no small part to the work of one woman.

Caroline Criado Perez:
My name is Caroline Criado Perez. I am a writer and activist.

Roman Mars:
Who has written an incredible book.

Caroline Criado Perez:
My book is called “Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias…” No. Wait. Sorry, that’s the British Title. What the (beep) is the American title?

Roman Mars:
The copy I have is called “Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men”.

Caroline Criado Perez:
I know that British people swear more than American people. Is this a non-sweary podcast?

Roman Mars:
Well, you can swear all you like.

Caroline Criado Perez:
Okay.

Roman Mars:
We will probably bleep it.

Caroline Criado Perez:
Okay. I’ll try to keep it to a minimum.

Roman Mars:
And honestly, Caroline Criado Perez has good reason to swear because this design flaw, in addition to being everywhere, is really annoying, but like so many of the worst design flaws, it can be hard to notice at first. To demonstrate just how hard, Caroline started off by telling me a story that begins with a joke about gender.

Caroline Criado Perez:
Basically, in this town called Karlskoga in Sweden, they were doing a gender analysis of all their local town policies. Someone said, “Well, obviously, snow clearing won’t have anything to do with gender.” It does sound, on the face of it, ridiculous. How can snow clearing have anything to do with gender?

Roman Mars:
After all, the city of Karlskoga plowed its streets the way you’d think all cities would plow their streets, starting with the major arteries followed by local roads and sidewalks. It seemed about as genderless as you could get.

Caroline Criado Perez:
But, actually, it turned out this was heavily related to gender because male and female travel patterns are not the same.

Roman Mars:
Men are far more likely to travel in a fairly simple way, using a car for a twice-daily commute in and out of the city center. You can see this in the way that most cities are laid out, with major arteries going in and out of downtown in what’s called an arterial system, which makes a lot of sense if you are a man. But it turns out the way many women travel is very different.

Caroline Criado Perez:
Women have these more complicated travel patterns which are called trip chaining. For example, a typical travel day for a woman might involve dropping the kids off at school before she goes to work, picking up some groceries on the way home, maybe dropping in on an elderly relative. And so women are much more likely to be walking, and women are much more likely to use public transport going on these local roads rather than just directly to a commercial area.

Roman Mars:
When Karlskoga’s plowing schedule was first designed, all this trip chaining done by women simply wasn’t factored in because it wasn’t considered work.

Caroline Criado Perez:
But actually, this work contributes hugely to GDP. In fact, they discovered that if you put all the unpaid care work travel together, it turned out that travel for those purposes was almost as much as travel for paid work. Suddenly, if you collect data in that way, it suddenly becomes a totally different proposition.

Roman Mars:
Once the city planners started looking at the data through the lens of gender, suddenly the idea that the city of Karlskoga, Sweden should plow it’s major arteries first didn’t make intuitive sense.

Caroline Criado Perez:
Because that’s really, really great for getting in and out of downtown, but it’s not very good for traveling between different suburbs, which is the kind of travel that women are much more likely to do.

Roman Mars:
So the city council of Karlskoga, realizing that it’s harder to push a buggy through three inches of snow than it is to drive a car, decided to flip their snow clearing policy on its head. From now on, it would be the minor streets and sidewalks that were plowed first, followed by the major arteries.

Caroline Criado Perez:
But what they didn’t expect was it would actually save them money, because it turned out that it dramatically reduced the admissions into accident and emergency, because they were right. It is much easier to drive a car through three inches of snow than to push a buggy. Pedestrians were massively dominating admissions into accident and emergency, and women were dominating the pedestrians. By this simple thing of changing the order in which they cleared the snow, they had this dramatic effect on their healthcare bill. That was not an insignificant cost. One analysis found that it was three times the cost of the winter road maintenance.

Roman Mars:
But the point of the story isn’t that Karlskoga has saved money or even that women suffered fewer injuries. It’s that the snow-clearing policy had been poorly designed even though the city planners had started out with the best of intentions.

Caroline Criado Perez:
It’s not like the travel planners thought, “I know, let’s make women fall over and fracture their pelvises. That’ll be really funny.” They just proceeded along the presumption that what would’ve worked for them would just work for society. When the snow-clearing schedule was devised, it would’ve been men coming up with that schedule, and it did work for them, but they forgot, as happens so often in public policy, to remember that women exist. This goes all the way back to the fact that this isn’t just transport infrastructure. This is pretty much everything.

Roman Mars:
Today I’m talking with Caroline Criado Perez, about the largest and most persistent data gap in history, the failure to collect data on and from women when designing, well, almost anything and the consequences of that not just for women but for everyone. You talk about this a lot in your book, which is at the root at almost all these design problems, which don’t seem to take women into account is the fallacy of the default male, the idea that when we picture a default human when we design something, whether we collect data or not, we picture a cis man. Were there times in your research where you discovered that you, yourself, were making a default male assumption?

Caroline Criado Perez:
Absolutely. I mean, that’s kind of how I got into feminism in the first place was realizing that I had this male default in my head, that whenever I pictured anyone, and the gender wasn’t specified, I was picturing a man. A lawyer, a doctor, a journalist, a scientist, anyone, I was constantly picturing men. That was really shocking to me because not only the fact that I was doing that but also the fact that I hadn’t noticed I was doing it, because it is really shocking. How had I not noticed? I’m a woman. How would I not notice I was always picturing the opposite sex? That’s just weird. We really are so used to seeing men as the default that most people aren’t aware that they are ignoring women, but for people who are developing tech, for people who are developing workplace policy, for people who are developing medical research, I wrote this book to try and wake those people up because I don’t think that they are bad people. But by not collecting sex desegregated data, what they are doing is having really serious, negative, potentially fatal results for women.

Roman Mars:
Well, you mentioned medical research. How does the absence of women in data gathering affect medicine?

Caroline Criado Perez:
Basically, the vast majority of medical research, and therefore the fast majority of knowledge we have, is based on the male body. For all sort of diseases, because the way we have researched them, the way we treat them, the way we diagnose them has been based on research on men, women get misdiagnosed. For example, heart attacks. Women are more likely to die following a heart attack than men, and that’s for a whole host of reasons. First of which is that female heart attack symptoms are not the heart attack symptoms that we have always been taught.

Caroline Criado Perez:
Certainly, I had always been taught that if I was having chest pain and pain down my left arm, I was having a heart attack. It turns out that, actually, those are not the typical heart attack symptoms for women. Women are more likely to experience breathlessness, nausea, fatigue, what feels like indigestion. Women don’t realize they’re having a heart attack, so they don’t go to the doctor. But even if they do go to the doctor, doctors don’t realize that women are having a heart attack.

Caroline Criado Perez:
Obviously, not all doctors don’t realize, but there is this higher rate of misdiagnosis and it’s partly because female heart attack symptoms are seen as atypical, even though they are very typical for women. In fact, male heart attack symptoms are very atypical for women. Only one in eight women will experience chest pain, for example, but because of this way that we see men as the default, male heart attack symptoms are seen as the default. Female heart attack symptoms are seen as this kind of niche variant.

Roman Mars:
Which is stunning, because if there was some kind of thing that affected 51% of the population, we wouldn’t think that that is a niche problem.

Caroline Criado Perez:
Yeah. But, I mean, we do in all sort of areas. I mean, another area that springs to mind is car crashes. The car crash test dummy that has been used for decades to test car safety has been based on a 50th percentile male.

Roman Mars:
Wow.

Caroline Criado Perez:
Obviously, that is a problem. Female bodies differ from male bodies in all sort of ways. We have fewer neck muscles. We have less upper body muscle mass. Our spinal columns are different. Our pelvises are different. These are all issues that need to be taken into account, but we’ve got this 50th percentile male dummy as if, of course, the 50th percentile male is the 50th percentile human. Actually, what is quite enraging, really, is that when this was introduced in the 1950s, there was actually a debate about having a female crash test dummy, but, as happens so often, car manufacturers lobbied against it on the basis that it would be too expensive.

Roman Mars:
And, presumably, it doesn’t just affect the safety data we collect. It actually affects the design of the car.

Caroline Criado Perez:
Exactly. The result is that cars just don’t fit women very well. For example, the seat belt hasn’t been designed to accommodate women’s breasts. We haven’t developed a seatbelt that accounts for pregnancy. Similarly, women need to sit much further forward than men in order to reach the pedals, obviously, a quite important part of being able to drive. But that moves women out of what’s called the standard seating position, and it puts them at a much higher risk in a frontal collision. All of this, together, means that women are 47% more likely to be seriously injured and 17% more likely to die than a man if they’re in a car crash.

Roman Mars:
Wow.

Caroline Criado Perez:
That is negligence, but I think it gets even worse because sort of belatedly, regulators have realized that women do exist. In 2011, the US realized that women exist, and in 2015, the EU realized that women existed.

Roman Mars:
You mean they finally introduced female crash test dummies?

Caroline Criado Perez:
Yeah, but, I mean, they haven’t really realized that women exist because, actually, the car crash test dummy that they are using is not an anthropometrically correct. It’s a scaled-down male dummy.

Roman Mars:
Right.

Caroline Criado Perez:
Even worse than that, in the EU, this scaled-down male dummy is only used in one out of the five regulatory tests and only in the passenger seat.

Roman Mars:
Wow.

Caroline Criado Perez:
Basically, all you can say, based on those tests, is that we have data on whether it’s safe or not for scaled-down men to sit in the passenger seat, but we don’t have data on whether it’s safe for actual women to sit in the passenger seat and no data at all on what’s it like for someone who might be slightly similar to a woman to drive.

Roman Mars:
Things like snow plowing, and medical protocols, and car safety are just a few instances where there is a critical data gap either because there is no data on women or the data that exists is not sex desegregated. Even something as innocuous as the width of a piano key has been designed only with male hand sizes in mind. In militaries across the world, marching regulations have been designed based solely on the average male stride length with disastrous results for female recruits. Construction tools, safety equipment, building codes, smart phones, voice recognition software, all of it designed using a corpus of data in which women largely do not exist. But after this break, we’ll look at another example that might just provide a blueprint for how to do things better in the future.

[BREAK]

Roman Mars:
I’ve been talking to Caroline Criado Perez about her book Invisible Women. Of all the stories of poor design, based on the gender data gap that Caroline told me, perhaps the most instructive was the case of the three stone stove. The three stone stove is a traditional form of cooking that’s used by 80% of people in the developing world. And it is what it sounds like three stones arranged in a circle on the ground with a pot placed on top of them and a fire underneath.

Caroline Criado Perez:
And the problem with this type of stove is that the fumes that are given off are incredibly toxic. And it’s not just that the fumes are really toxic, it’s how long women and children are exposed to the fumes because also the three stone stove is not very efficient. So they will be in a poorly ventilated room being exposed to, I think one estimate was something like the equivalent of more than a hundred cigarettes per day.

Roman Mars:
And this seems like something like… we’ve had stoves and ovens for quite a long time. Why wasn’t this fixed a long time ago? Did we even try?

Caroline Criado Perez:
So there have been attempts by development agencies to develop these clean stoves that don’t require you to be hooked up to the national grid. But we still have this big problem that they aren’t being adopted and the reason they aren’t being adopted is incredibly simple. It’s that they are being designed without anyone going and speaking to women and asking them what they need and what they want.

Roman Mars:
How are they lacking the current designs?

Caroline Criado Perez:
The issues… they’re just sort of hilariously basic. They keep developing stoves that, for example, increase cooking time. And women are already cooking for five hours a day. They don’t have more time to spend cooking. Also, they often require more attending. And again when you’re having to spend so long cooking, you need to be able to multitask. And again, this isn’t something that has been factored in.

Caroline Criado Perez:
One clean cookstove was developed and it required a certain amount of maintenance. The designers just sort of assumed, “Oh well the household will take care of that.” But actually maintenance in that way was a man’s job. And the men didn’t want to maintain these stoves because they thought, “Well, why do I need to? She can just cook on the old style stove. So why do I want to waste my time maintaining this stove?”

Caroline Criado Perez:
Another one was a similar issue that the stove wa s too small to just put bits of wood in. You had to chop the wood up. Again, that was a man’s job. They weren’t doing it. So the women didn’t get to use these stoves.

Caroline Criado Perez:
There’s all of these really, really simple things that should have been caught at the design stage. If they had just gone and spoken to the women and said “What do you need?” And they would have said, “Well, we need something that means that we don’t have to spend more time cooking, that we can look after our kids while we’re doing it. And that we don’t need men to help us with, because they won’t.” And so program after program for year after year has failed for these really, really basic reasons.

Roman Mars:
And how many years are we talking about?

Caroline Criado Perez:
Decades.

Roman Mars:
Wow.

Caroline Criado Perez:
The really frustrating thing is that often reports get produced that basically say that it’s the woman’s fault. The women are unwilling to learn how to use the stoves, or the women are choosing to cook in these dangerous toxic fumes. That one really is just insulting.

Roman Mars:
This reminds me of all this language in the crash tests that women are the out of position drivers and it really does, like there’s a moment where designers and people studying this finally see women, and that is trying to find someone to blame.

Caroline Criado Perez:
I sort of connect this to the default male, because this position of, “Well there must be something wrong with the women. We’ve got to fix the women.” That never is actually something that we apply to men. And I think it becomes most clear when you are looking at things like workplace initiatives where the idea is, “Well, we need to build up women’s confidence. It’s that women aren’t confident enough that that’s why they’re not getting promoted. That’s why not they’re not going for promotions. That’s why they’re not choosing X, Y, Z subject.”

Caroline Criado Perez:
And yet study after study has shown that actually women are pretty good at assessing their skill, their intelligence, and actually it’s men who tend to overestimate their skill and intelligence. And so when you see that, then you sort of have to think, well maybe it’s not that the women rate themselves too low, it’s the men rating themselves too high. We just never think of it like that. Because the male is the default. It’s assumed, “Well that must be the right level and the women are wrong. So we’ve got to fix the women.”

Roman Mars:
So did anyone bother to design a stove based primarily on the input of women, and if so, what did they create?

Caroline Criado Perez:
They did. It has a happy ending. A few years ago, researchers in India, instead of trying to create a whole stove, they created this device that you can put on any cookstove and basically it cuts wood use and cuts smoke to comparable levels. It’s very, very cheap. It’s used with recycled metal material and it’s being picked up not just in India. There’ve been studies in Kenya and Ghana with the same device with similarly positive results that women are adopting this. And basically guess how they found out how to do this. They went and they asked women.

Roman Mars:
It’s revolutionary.

Caroline Criado Perez:
So what these researchers did that was different was they started off from the basis of what do women actually need? What do women actually want? How can we provide that? And so the researchers went and asked the women “What is the issue?” rather than coming in from above and saying, “You women, you’re very silly and naughty. Use this stove.”

Roman Mars:
When I read your book, it’s kind of both satisfying and enraging about it. The solution is pretty simple. It’s just talk to women, gather data and think of that while you’re making things or include women in the process the whole time. Do you find yourself hopeful? Dispirited? Angry?

Caroline Criado Perez:
Oh, I feel really angry. I am incredibly pissed off because it’s so frustrating. And particularly when it comes to areas where I know that researchers know that there is a problem. I often get asked what’s the most shocking thing you found? And I understand why people ask that question. It’s an obvious question to ask because there are so many shocking things. But because there are so many shocking things, it’s quite difficult for me to pick one. And actually also after a while you become sort of numb to it because it’s all so awful.

Caroline Criado Perez:
Women are dying in car crashes, women are dying from heart attacks, women are dying from unclean cookstoves. So after awhile it’s not the examples, it’s the excuses that make you really angry. And to this day, I’ve had, let’s say, not entirely friendly exchanges on Twitter with certain researchers who actually say, “Well we can’t test on women because they have periods and that would complicate the results.”

Caroline Criado Perez:
And that’s just enraging because they must know as I know that, yes, periods do in fact…

Roman Mars:
Complicate the results.

Caroline Criado Perez:
Have an impact on results.

Roman Mars:
Right, that’s the whole point.

Caroline Criado Perez:
But that’s something that you need to know. And yet, 2019 and I have medical researchers trying the, “Oh well we’ll start in men and if we find anything interesting then we’ll include women,” which again is positioning male as the default. And I suppose one of the things that makes me most angry is that it’s sort of thinking about how many drugs for women have we missed out on because they didn’t work for men when we started testing them?

Roman Mars:
Do you see the end of excuses? Are we reaching an end where you can no longer have these excuses? Or is this still just as bad as ever?

Caroline Criado Perez:
Well, we’re definitely not reaching an end.

Roman Mars:
Yeah. I’m not trying to make you have a good view of this at all. I share your pessimism.

Caroline Criado Perez:
I tell you what. You asked me how did I feel writing the book, and writing the book I felt absolutely despondent. Since the book has come out, I have felt more hope. That has been because the response has been actually quite incredible, from both men and women. Women, the main response and reaction has just been one of relief of “Wow, the world’s suddenly makes sense and I’ve realized that there isn’t something wrong with me. I just have a body that hasn’t been factored into the design of pretty much anything.”

Caroline Criado Perez:
But then also from men, I’ve had so many men get in touch telling me about how they are changing their hiring procedure and how they are changing their research procedure and how they are changing buildings that they’re designing, incorporating what they have read in the book into the way that they work, projects that they are involved in.

Roman Mars:
So if you were to prescribe a solution to make this better, what are the steps you would…

Caroline Criado Perez:
You know what my answer is going to be.

Roman Mars:
Let’s go for the answer.

Caroline Criado Perez:
Collect sex disaggregated data. Because it really is that simple. It is that simple. And actually an amazing thing that happened yesterday was, and I think this is perhaps my biggest win to date, was that the Scottish government have started a working group on collecting sex and gender disaggregated data as a result of the book. I mean that’s just amazing.

Roman Mars:
Oh yeah, got to love the Scots.

Caroline Criado Perez:
They are great and I’m going to have to move there because when we Brexit, Scotland is going to be the only safe haven.

Roman Mars:
Caroline Criado Perez’s book is called “Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men”. It’s available wherever books are sold and I highly recommend you go out and buy a copy because it’s filled with hundreds of other examples of gender data bias that will have you questioning the default cis man design assumptions of the world around you. It’s truly illuminating and infuriating and inspiring all at the same time.

Roman Mars:
99% Invisible’s impact design coverage is supported by Autodesk. Autodesk supports the design and creation of innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing social and environmental challenges. Autodesk Foundation is a proud partner of 60 Decibels, 60 Decibels makes it easy to listen to the people who matter most. Their lean data approach turns customer voice into high value insights that help businesses grow and maximize their impact. They leverage the power of technology to communicate directly with marginalized communities, collecting high quality impact data efficiently at a fraction of the time of traditional approaches.

Roman Mars:
That means businesses providing everything from off-grid energy solutions to family health services can better understand their customers, adapt to their needs, and do more good. To learn more, you can visit www.60decibels.com or go to www.autodesk.com/redshift to explore more on the future of making.

Comments (24)

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  1. Cal

    I’m a 6’3″ (190cm) male and due to being a cyclist, weigh only 143lb (65kg). I’m pretty much right at the limit of how little a MAN could weigh at my height. I can count on my fingers the number of women I have seen in my life who were taller and of those, zero were also thinner. I go shopping with my wife and whilst she’s trying on clothes, I stand around noticing that most shop mannequins for women’s clothes ARE taller AND thinner than I am. I would say they are normally 6’4″ and if they were a person, about 55-60kg. That is, they would be dead. I point this out to my wife and a few other women standing around in the shop – they all think I’m being ridiculous because models are meant to be tall and thin. I think they have been brainwashed.

  2. Great interview and great work by Caroline Criado Perez!

    I understand the anger that Perez expresses about the failure in various systems to take account of women’s issues in the design process.

    This is directed, in the interview at least (I have not yet read the book, I confess, but will now), at researchers.

    As someone who teaches in a program that includes the field of user research, I often hear from industry practitioners that one of the main obstacles they face in trying to advocate for this kind of formative research is convincing management of its value.

    Shouldn’t the funders of the research that goes into (or doesn’t) the design process bear the lion’s share of the responsibility for these failings, rather than the researchers themselves?

    In other words, it might not always be the researchers’ fault, but the companies behind the research that aren’t willing to spend the time and money to gather and utilize the sex-disaggregated data that Perez rightly says is the root cause of the design flaws?

  3. Skeptic

    Unfortunately it’s really not possible to draw any meaningful conclusions based on the summary of the book as presented. Research into these topics is typically very poor and untrustworthy — Therefore in order to support the conclusions as presented we need more data than is actually presented in this article. We see, for example, a significant elision of actual data in favor of qualitative and value-laden judgments.

    If the default plowing strategy was A, and then further analysis revealed B was better, on what metrics was B shown to be better than A? Why were these metrics selected? On what metrics was B worse than A? Can we actually provide meaningful analysis of the overall impact of the differing metrics at a broader level to evaluate the impact of each? And what is the evidence given which supports the conclusion that there is an implicit bias towards men in strategy A versus strategy B, rather than an effort-bias, time-bias, etc? What biases are exposed by, first, the value-laden preference for strategy B?

    Furthermore, what biases are exposed by our implicit acceptance of the hypothesis presented in this article/book?

    1. Julie Knox

      Fantastic interview.
      In the brand new maternity assessment ward at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Glasgow, I was disappointed to find that the chairs in the waiting area (where pregnant women may wait for 2 hours to be seen) seem to have been chosen based on design aesthetic rather than comfort for pregnant women. They are made of hard wood and the seat slopes upwards from your bottom towards your knees, so even the average sized woman may struggle to reach the floor with her feet, leaving her feet dangling over the hard edge. And the angle of the seat makes it so that shuffling your bottom forward in order to reach the floor with your feet is very uncomfortable and leaves you with no lumbar support.
      So even when the intended demographic is pregnant women, the design is aimed at a tall non-pregnant person (i.e. a man).

    2. Julie Knox

      Dear Sceptic
      I suggest you examine your own bias, since you have managed to overlook that the data you call for are clearly presented in the episode – one metric that showed that plowing strategy B was better than plowing strategy B was the fact that the reduced AE attendance resulting from strategy B saved more money than a the whole year´s plowing budget. This is not taking into account the reduced human suffering from injuries and subsequent effect on the work that the injured woman was doing before being injured.

  4. Nicolas Trolet

    Does that happen with all data or just the ones regarding sex gender? It seems to be the non-use of data that makes bad design not just the sex-disaggregated data.

  5. awasky

    Fantastic episode. For my “favorite” design flaw caused by invisible women, how about the way that our entire economy is structured around an idea of working (when and what hours, what you need to do to advance, what you give up for flexibility) that assumes that the default employee will not become pregnant, give birth, or be a primary caregiver for children?

    Runner up is that every public building has bathrooms for men and women of the same size even though it’s demonstrable that women take longer to use it. There could be equal line length for both genders if the bathroom allocation took that into account. It is such a natural thought that of course women have to wait in line and men don’t, I’ve watched men be appalled that the bathroom at a show is unisex and they do have to wait in the line.

  6. Although the concept of “listening to the user” is wonderful, and there are some interesting points made, I find it difficult to imagine (a) designing pianos for both men and women, (b) designing separate cars/seatbelts/car seats, (c) etc. Frankly, if we’re going to design men’s and women’s piano keys, why not kids’ keys (on normal-sized pianos, not kids’ pianos.). Are we supposed to design separate machines and devices for men and women? Or perhaps find an “average” solution that doesn’t accommodate most people?

    The snow plowing issue is also problematic. There may be economic GDP reasons for plowing side streets first, but I sure wouldn’t want to be wrestling with traffic on my way to my center city office (whether I’m a man or woman) so that mothers/fathers/caregivers can push their baby carriages around (as is implied in the narrative). The fact is, getting to work is not an optional time of day project for most people, whereas running errands on side streets is. (The real solution may be to work from home and eliminate center city…but until then, the vast majority of workers are on a strict timetable)

    Now, the 3-stone-stove issue is a different kind of problem and the logic is very difficult to follow. If 80% of people in the developing world are using this so-called primitive method, it doesn’t sound like it calls for a “designer”–it calls for the users…people…to simply rise up and protest. And if this is such an ancient method, does it really take several thousand years for the householders and “designers” to realize that people are getting sick and dying? At some point (several millennia) “being ignored” starts to be on the user. Meanwhile, I’m having trouble imagining people living in such dire ancient conditions and calling in “designers” for their new huts who proceed to ignore them.

    As it happens, though, I think a lot could be done about the restroom situation. Having watched countless scenes of women patiently waiting for access to their facility while men waltz in and out seems patently unfair…and pretty easily fixed. It’s not like creating separate piano keys or seatbelts or reversing plowing routes.

  7. Ross

    Another win for purposely getting sex-disaggregated data in as many areas as possible is that there are a few places where women are the default and men end up getting ignored, in the exact same way. The one example I can think of right now is depression diagnosis. Men’s symptoms of depression are usually not the “depressed mood, lack of motivation, loss of pleasure in activities and hobbies, etc.” that we usually think of. Men’s symptoms generally include anger, irritability, and substance abuse.

    Doing this will be good for everybody.

  8. Pedro

    I work designing houses, so I tend to notice the built environment. The thing that I don’t understand is why the women’s restroom at public buildings where events are held aren’t designed for the volume. Has the line at the women’s restroom been studied? Let’s sort that one out.

  9. Fred Leonard

    This interview was disappointing – especially the portion dealing with snow removal. While the guest presents herself as a feminist activist and presents snow removal as a gender issue, the presents this on the basis of the assumption that men commute (using major thoroughfares) to work and women are housewives who stay at home and run errands (using local streets).
    The interview also ignores the basic issues around snow emergencies in the US (which you Bay Area folks don’t deal with). When major snowfalls are forecast, people stock up on staples (and TV news crews go out and take pictures of this). Further, many local business are closed after snow falls. Add to this, schools close and kids stay home. So clearing local street for errands is not an issue. Furthermore, major highways and freeways are generally cleared and maintained by state departments of transportation. Local streets are cleared by cities, townships or county road departments. It’s not because sexist male bureaucrats ignore women but because different agencies have different resources and priorities.
    Most disappointing of all in this interview, Roman made no attempt to probe the guest’s assumptions, facts and conclusions, to challenge her conclusions or to ask her to confront contrasting views. Roman did little more than say “amen” and “I feel your pain,” which is far too typical when public radio covers grievances of so called “minorities.”

  10. Dorthea

    The “Unisex” T-shirt is my #1 love-to-hate design. Let’s just call it what it is: a men’s t-shirt. Many events give away t-shirts as an incentive for entering or participating. Because the t-shirts are 80% of the time “Unisex” the women go home with a boxy t-shirt that sits in a drawer because it’s tight around the hips, baggy at the waist, and has big floppy sleeves.

  11. Jill

    Motorcycle gear is seriously lacking in the industry. It’s mostly designed for women riding on the back of bikes. Gear that is designed for women is either pink or lace. Many say just get men’s small or extra small, but that doesn’t take into account the differing proportions of the female body not to mention breasts. Manufacturers often site that there isnt enough women riders to justify the cost of making womens gear. Yet they have vertically ignored women as riders fir over a century, women have been explicitly excluded from clubs or activities as riders. And when the motorcycle is designed there are few concessions made with respect to womens shorter body height and smaller fingers. I would think if they want to save their sport they should open their minds to including women as riders and increase ridership amongst 51% of the population.

  12. Curtiss Seale

    Unintended Gender Bias front and center: Ironic that the audio of this podcast was such that Roman, with his soft NPR voice, was completely mismatched with Ms. Perez higher treble voice.

  13. Ymi Yugy

    Great interview but I think there is something problematic with two of the examples, snow ploughing and the stove.
    Both issues overwhelmingly affect women not because they are women but because of gender roles.
    Making these issues issues of gender bears the risk of reinforcing gender roles.

  14. SW

    This comments section is like a microcosm as to why nothing changes. No amount of data will convince some. Some will never believe something even if every woman in their life says it. Some will give endless commentary about how it isn’t really sexism. Some see everything as all or nothing. Every comment section on a topic about women proves the need for feminism and this one is the same. Yeah, the grammar and spelling is better than average. But the reasoning remains tired. You don’t want to change and you don’t want to be wrong. While the rest of us die because of your blindness. The devil has advocates enough that he doesn’t need you.

  15. Shana Ryken

    The episode points to several examples where the male-designed default makes life just a little more dangerous and difficult for women. The more you look the more you can see these design flaws. The standard size of steps (generally) is for a man’s length of leg and gait, seating and audience space at venues and theatres is always infuriating to me as well, tall men block women all the time. I don’t think the answer is to just start creating separate men’s and women’s things but to create based on the acceptance and knowledge on various types of bodies and sizes (universal design)… seats that adjust up and down, etc. this helps everyone, not just women.

  16. Carol Ramsey

    My favorite example of this is the forward-facing headrests in cars. I got a Honda Pilot and it wasn’t a big problem at first, but about a month later, I was in the chiropractor’s office. I was leaning forward just a bit when I drove, and my upper back was a mess. I read that the new headrests were a safety improvement, to reduce the impact of whiplash. When the researcher pointed out that test crash dummies are based on men’s bodies, it made sense. They have more upper body muscle and mass. If the angle of the headrest is ideal for them, then women are leaning forward. AHHHHH. Really, seriously, the test dummies STILL represent a typical male? Even the female versions?

    I agree with other commenters though. The snow plow example didn’t make sense.

  17. Jane

    This explains why every seatbelt rubs against the left side of my neck. I have to keep forcing it down because it never sits across my chest correctly. As for previous comments about how they cannot design separate seat belts for men and women, it wouldn’t need to be a separate seatbelt. The adjustment for the shoulder harness needs to have a wider range.

  18. As a cis female owner of Nox Shop, a highly curated sex toy boutique, I can tell you that this is one of the driving forces behind how we select the products for our shop. There has been extremely limited data collection done on women’s sexual fulfillment (compared to, for example the research and development of erectile disfunction medication) which has resulted in warehouses full of near-useless sex toys. Most anyone with a clitoris can tell you that most of their orgasms are triggered by external stimulation and yet toy after toys after toy is developed for internal use only. We’re so lucky to have found smaller, up and coming female-owned toy companies, like Dame Products, who are putting gender data at the forefront of how their toys are designed. It may seem frivolous, compared to some of the examples offered in the interview, but when ED meds are covered by a number of insurance providers, it’s almost as though we see accurate, safe, and researched sexual satisfaction as a right…for cis men.

  19. jball

    Great and thought-provoking interview providing several ‘yes!’ and ‘so, that’s why!’ moments. Hoping this will impact the field of nutrition and serving sizes which are obvi man-sized; cut down on food waste and give accurate data per serving. Also, can anyone come up with a solution to enormous dogfood bags? Women are the primary pet food purchasers yet the enormity of giant dogfood bags cannot be hoisted by most women.

  20. Kiwi

    The “Unisex” Shirt is the WORST. Whenever you want to get a promotional t-shirt or one included in giveaways, you’re given a men’s shirt with a “unisex” tag on it. It’s miserable, it doesn’t fit around my breasts, is too wide for my shoulders and rides up on my hips. The unisex tag is used as an easy excuse to look inclusive without having to actually make a women’s shirt

  21. JE

    This article goes into detail explaining how the three stone cooking system is deficient and the failures of past systems. I wish it provided any meaningful level of detail on the design of the new stove system that has apparently addressed these issues. Given how prevalent the three stone system is presented as being, I feel like the “solution” is just hand waved away. For show that focuses on design, it would have been great to know how these problems that apparently have plagued designers around the world for years were overcome!

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