Hi there,

This is a man's world, this is a man's world
But it wouldn't be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl

Today is International Women’s Day, and we’re celebrating the strides we've made when it comes to designing products of all kinds.

With brilliant minds spanning the last century – from Ray Eames’ timeless furniture models to Susan Kare’s iconic Macintosh icons to Cathy Pearl’s revolutionary user interfaces – it’s easy to feel like we finally live in a world made by women, for women.

However, it’s 2024, and women are still left in the shadows when it comes to design – design of our products, our services, our built environments, and even our public policy. In all these areas, men still dominate as researchers and participants, creating a big gender bias in the data that shapes our lives. 

This explains why nothing ever seems to fit quite right: with phones that are too big for our pockets, drugs that don’t work right for our bodies, and cars that are far too fatal. After all, they weren’t made for women in the first place.

Join us this week as we shine a light on the “phantom femme” in the world of design, drawing inspiration from Caroline Priado Perez’s book Invisible Women (a must-read for those who haven’t). 

Until next time,
Charlotte & Gabrielle and the mold-breaking team @ TDL

Setting the record straight: We know not everyone falls within the binary, and many factors go into creating and maintaining systemic barriers. Whether it be gender expression, race, sexual orientation, or religion, our collective experiences cannot be completely summarized in one newsletter. This is especially true for those navigating multiple identities and systems of oppression simultaneously.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach. We hope this edition inspires you to consider those who are often left out of the conversation when it comes to designing our world. 

📧 Want to discover how to design products for everyone? Subscribe to our newsletter here.
Today’s topics 👀
🧑‍💼 Deep Dive: The World is Your Man Cave
🧊 Field Notes: Iced Out of the Workplace
💅 Viewpoints: Don’t Just Paint it Pink
🧑‍💼 The World is Your Man Cave

+ Women are left out of the equation when it comes to vehicle safety (literally). Women are 47% more likely to be seriously injured and 17% more likely to die in a car accident. Why? It's all about how we test car safety, or more specifically, the tools we're using. The standard crash test dummy is the 50th percentile adult male (or 5’9 and 176 pounds). Female dummies are not subject to all the same crash testing, leaving a massive gap in the data that pushes for exclusive car design.

+ The “gender pain gap” is real. Since men are considered the “standard,” women are often misdiagnosed, with consequences ranging from inconvenient to fatal. Pain medications are also less effective (or in extreme cases, harmful) on female bodies and that’s because the data driving medical research is filled with a male population.

+ Voice recognition software is better at listening to male voices. Google’s version is fully 70% more accurate for men. The recommended solution is encouraging women to speak louder and more directly into the microphone, rather than fixing the system itself. (And the bias goes both ways: AI assistants’ typically female voices perpetuate gender roles as well.)

+ But it's not just about the interface, it’s the phone itself. The average male hand is about 2 cm larger and one thing’s for certain – phones aren’t getting any smaller. And no, the solution isn’t just to “get a smaller phone;” the problem here is that women are being written out of the market. Regardless of the phone you choose, we hope you buy a protective case too, since pockets on women’s jeans are roughly 48% smaller than men’s and 6.5% narrower.

🧊 FIELD NOTES: Iced Out of the Workplace

The workplace has always been catered towards male employees. After all, most office thermostats, dating back to the 60s, use the resting metabolic rate of a 40-year-old man weighing 154 pounds. Women (and most of us who don’t fit the mold) have bodies that tend to metabolize at different rates – leaving a lot of us shivering.

Unfortunately, this coldness towards women has found its way into the remote workplace, exacerbating issues that already existed in person. For example, female employees hesitate to share their points during virtual meetings, afraid of taking up too much air time. This can be explained by the fact women of color are disproportionately affected by microaggressions while working online. And don’t get us started on zoom fatigue – which, to no surprise, women experience more as well.

To find out how to design online communication tools more equitably, check out our article: "'I’m Speaking': Gender Differences in Digital Workplace Communication."

“I’m Speaking”: Gender Differences in Digital Workplace Communication
💅 Don’t Just Paint it Pink

Let’s talk solutions. This isn’t just about men and women, but about inclusivity for all. The world is no fun if you can’t experience what it has to offer – if it’s not designed with you in mind. This means expanding the conversation to other underserved groups by fostering spaces, creating gadgets, and ensuring safety for everyone. 

+ Create Flexible Hours. The classic 9-5 was built long before women were welcomed in the workplace – and that’s exactly what makes it inaccessible. Most corporate jobs aren’t family-friendly. Who picks up the slack when both parents work? What about folks who have dependents? In recent years, European trade organizations have proposed shortening the market trading hours to allow for flexibility in the workday and room for everyone. 

+ Diversify the research population. Female bodies are underrepresented in the early stages of pharmaceutical clinical trials. But it doesn't stop at drugs – women and girls aren’t a focal point of digital product testing, either. The solution? Bringing more women in from the get-go. Include female researchers and participants to foster an environment of acceptance and relatability. We're all more likely to feel more at ease in uncomfortable situations when supported by those who share like experiences. 

+ Set everyone up for success. In the UK, almost 20% of HR decision-makers have confessed to being reluctant when hiring women whom they suspect will start families – creating massive inequality. But what if we leveled the playing field on paid leave? In Sweden, Finland, and Iceland, parents are offered equal time off, shifting the gender roles and allowing for both parents to grow in their careers. 

+ Create learning opportunities. Stereotypes contribute to who we think is the “best fit” for a job, creating massive gaps in applicant pools. Only 19% of practicing industrial designers identify as women. And this isn’t just a number; it has real implications for the design process and the products that come from it. Making strides is UX para Minas Pretas, a Portuguese EdTech organization focused on putting Black women in the driver's seat of design. Through training and job scouting, UXMP encourages women of color to pursue careers in tech. 

The Tech World Is Still a Man’s World
Percentage of female employees in the workforce of major tech companies.
Why Does Gender Bias Persist?

Most of us don’t think we’re sexist, but still hold implicit biases about gender without realizing it. According to Daniel Kahneman, this is because we default to System 1 thinking – which is short, fast, and without deliberation. Meaning, we’re not digging deeper into why we think what we think – allowing stereotypes to seep in. The consequences are real, shrinking opportunities for female applicants thanks to employer’s internalized misconceptions that women lack assertiveness and decisiveness.

Read on to discover more reasons why gender bias persists.

Want to have your voice heard? We'd love to hear from you. Reply to this email to share your thoughts, feedback, and questions with the TDL team.
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