Considering the gender balance in product design

Last month, the cancellation of Nasa’s all-female space walk because there wasn’t a spacesuit available in the correct size for Anne McClain sparked controversy. It also got some people considering women in the modern world and how they navigate it when it may appear that world has been designed for men.

The last 60+ years have seen the numbers of women within the workplace, increase and has resulted in women entering a much broader range of occupations, from mainly supportive, nurturing roles such as teaching and nursing to every walk of occupational and professional life. Women are working in industries and roles previously regarded as the sole prerogative of men.

In a recent BBC news article, Caroline Criado Perez, a journalist and the author of Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, told the BBC she was totally unsurprised by the spacesuit debacle. From police stab vests that don’t account for breasts, to safety goggles too large for women’s faces, to boots that don’t fit women’s feet, Ms Criado Perez says the list is endless.

“This is just what happens over and over when it comes to what we design,” she says. “We are so used to thinking of men as the default and women as the sort of niche – a variety of man… The average woman is an outlier.”

Ms Criado Perez’s recent comments regarding this are not new, but we need to be careful and consider if what she talks about is really the norm. Our experience is that when it comes to the adult toy industry, some of the most innovative designs currently and emerging in to this market are created by women. We’re seeing new female-centric technologies emerge that not only focus on female stimulation but also address issues that have been swept under the rug for decades.

In the last few years, the sex tech industry has seen more and more women-founded and operated sex toy companies. From crystal dildos, to a vibrator that doubles as a necklace; female-created toys are both innovative, and non-intimidating.

Polly Rodriguez, CEO of Unbound, a feminist sex toy subscription service said recently “Today, we see a new wave of femme-owned businesses, designing the next generation of products and experiences with the goal of taking the category mainstream. There is something inherently feminist and defiant in starting a business in this space, because historically, women have not had the right to their own bodies and we’re still fighting for that right today.”

We think it is worth noting that product design and engineering as a whole needs more gender balance in its ranks. There is a strong argument to say that every design team should have the balance of input of both genders. A good conclusion in the article by Ms Criado Perez was that companies should be prepared to demonstrate how they have been successful in doing this so they can inspire others to do the same. Certainly food for thought!

Sated Design are currently expanding and looking to take on more product designers. If you think you can make a difference and support us then we look forward to hearing from you.

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