May 2019: Double the Effort, Double the Numbers

By Maya Frai, May 30 2019

One of the main things you’ll hear often enough is that in order for society to achieve gender equality, the numbers need to balanced. The numbers being representative of amount in salaries, number of executives, number of degrees received, along with many other stats concerning the gender gap between men and women in various industries. One important aspect to also keep in mind is the effort needed to put into the existing systems and processes in order to actually further progress for gender equality.

To be more specific — it’s surprising to see how we live in a world where a majority of things are designed with men in mind.

I recently came across past research that showed how cars were designed with a masculine structure in mind, foregoing the more nimble and sometimes dainty female body that represents the other half of drivers. Research conducted in Sweden showed that “modern seats are too firm to protect women against whiplash injuries: the seats throw women forward faster than men because the back of the seat doesn’t give way for women’s on average lighter bodies. The reason this has been allowed to happen is very simple: cars have been designed using car crash-test dummies based on the average male.” Car crash tests serve a historical example of how the outcomes of larger issues like car crashes root back to the systems in place that do not equalize the attention given to both primary user groups.

It’s not to say that this isn’t changing. One of the ways this is improving is through the recruitment of women to change these processes with the female body in mind. Every year, more and more women are being recruited for industrial design roles with the intention of diversifying the workforce to include more thought-leaders in changing the car design with women in mind. “Things are better now,” said Sharon Gauci, executive director for industrial design at General Motors, who was one of only two women in her industrial design class in college.

“But the numbers still aren’t what we’d like them to be. Our industry needs and wants creative people from different backgrounds — women, minorities, everybody.”

In another recent case, several news publications reported how NASA cancelled the first in history all-female spacewalk because the spacesuit did not fit Anne McClain, who had to give up her place to a male colleague. Nearly 60 years after the first human blasted off into space, less than 11 percent of the 500 plus people who have traveled to space have been women, and spacewalk teams have either been all-male or male-female. This walk would have made history, but instead had to result in the change of spacewalkers, which was argued easier than reconfiguring the spacesuit.

Healthcare is another important area where double the effort is needed to balance the playing field in terms of treatment for men and women. In a past podcast done by Lean In, Serena Williams and two doctors from the National Institutes of Health and Oregon Health & Science University discuss the issues around women being overlooked in not only being treated, but also in taking on roles in the medical profession. Too often women are being misdiagnosed, incorrectly treated, or not having their projected symptoms be taken seriously. One of the most staggering statistics was that black women in the US are over 3x more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth related causes. One of the causes for this issue is the unconscious bias where doctors or nurses might treat a patient differently based on the color of their skin.

Additionally, the mere presence of women is a step in the right direction for countering these issues. Dr. Clayton states how before 1990, women were not routinely included in clinical trials of medications used to treat diseases that affect both men and women. In fact, women were actively excluded from those studies — for reasons including that they did not want to harm women developing babies.

Double the effort is not taken seriously in this case, where men and women are receiving unequal health care. With more and more women becoming vocal about the importance of inclusivity and diversity in the workplace, the change will surely be put forward to double the amount of women advocating for other women as well as doubling the amount of cases, treatments, processes, and systems that actively include and target women as valuable participants and users.

In a world where women, along with many unrepresented minorities, have to work twice as hard to gain recognition and respect for their work, identity, and progress, it’s becoming increasingly more important to empower the women around you to continue doubling their effort to make up for lost progress.

Women comprise more than half of the workforce and constitute 70-80% of consumer purchasing power. Financial, societal, and political power is truly in the hands of women worldwide. Women and men make up 50/50 of the pie. Equality means double the effort in order to ensure systems and processes are in place to take care of both sides. In order to balance the numbers, the only solution is to 2x them by breaking the odds.