Gender Imbalance in Design
The Voice of Chandigarh
It is a known observation that a gender imparity exists in design for all products, even as we enter the 21st century. It is also a known fact and most hush secret that women are less frequent in a leadership role and it is also to note that how this also is affecting design and Innovation.
For instance, the crash tests, seat belts and impact energy are still evaluated on an “average male”. Sure, to make it less disproportionate the average dummy manikin has started considering different race types like Caucasian, African, but it is still an average “man” is yet a white male. While the manikin is used in several places for example a frontal, side and topple crash test, rolling over protection test (ROPS), falling object protection test (FOPS) but it has been disregarding the impact of female aesthetics during the test.
A female manikin introduced in recent timesis still based on a rundown of a man (weight, height etcetera) and thus the impact and crash testing during any off-highway or highway vehicle still does not truly considers a woman as a part of the study. The genealogy or a makeup of a female manikin needs to be different and it should be noted that the body mass index, muscle stiffness and seating position for a woman would greatly differ from that of a man, hence crash and impact values must differ. These parameters can help a lot in saving lives of people in car accidents if such aspects were provided some scrutiny. In addition, also notice that a seat belt though evolved over late 60’s till today is still “patriarchy” in nature. How many of you have heard complaints that the respected female in your car are not very fond of wearing the seat belt and frankly I do sympathize with it. It is astounding that that a three-point seat belt invented in 1959 by Volvo, still has minimal comfort for a female design.?
The above is merely an example but studies have estimated that the economic impact is not subtle but huge which largely is also uncapped. It is assumed that women influence 85 percent of all car purchases and that makes it more than $80 billion dollars industry. However, even though the above statement is an outcry to hire more and more women in Industrial designing while just considering an example of a car industry, the level of engagement in all the sectors is concerning. Times though may be changing as the companies start to adopt an approach of hiring leadership roles with women in design, but the pace is senile. Indeed, that companies like GM, Volvo, Mini, Nissan and other are following suit and it is not just the criteria of multi-tasking functionality which a woman brings to table but see the practical approaches. The examples like seat in front of child seat now being made a little sturdy as children like kicking them, easy access to rear with a child in hand, doing changes to arm rest are number of examples where such women centric design principles are trying to make a difference.Imagine a potential when more these ideas are brought to table, I can raise up my hand and
agree that these features do impact my car buying decisions. These examples are not just practical, but they tend to impact let’s say a segment of family cars or mini vans of a car company by attracting more customers and in turn revenue.
Even on a personal front involvement of mother in the car while travelling has opened up my mind for suggestions for example my wife (who is not an engineer) wants to keep an eye on her child seated in the middle row while she is seated front and to innovate it she drops the sun shade-make up a mirror to compensate it, imagine the possibility of giving a parabolic mirror on driver or passenger seat. She wishes if the car could have a beeping sensor while closing the window to prevent a child finger from getting trapped while windows are going up. She points out the need for car seats to have adjustable headrest while the child sleeps and prevent the child’s head from wobbling. It is worthwhile to note that technologies for such demands exist like but a few or no one has pondered to convert into an application being searched for. All these suggestions are worth pondering with the observations made being potential ideas. In conclusion, bringing women on the team and in leadership roles will spell out the wonder of ideas and help create a world that is centric towards better sustainability.
Reference articles: http://kjonnsforskning.no/en/2019/06/cars-are-still-designed-men
By: Mayank Ghai: (Mayank Ghai is a Mechanical design engineer in a leadership role and social commenter)