The Pitfalls of Data’s Gender Gap

Without female data, everything from safety gear to urban design to Siri is biased toward men. The effects range from inconvenient to deadly

By Sophie Bushwick on April 1, 2019

NASA scheduled the first all-female spacewalk for the end of last month. But a mere four days before the historic event was meant to happen, they scrapped the plan and subbed in a male astronaut, claiming it was because they did not have enough space suits in the proper size to fit all the women astronauts.

Unfortunately, women all too often must make do with equipment designed for men, an oversight that can be more than a PR embarrassment. Many police stab vests fail to accommodate women’s breasts, causing the protective gear to ride up and leave the wearer’s torso exposed. Although the U.S. military designed uniforms to fit female bodies, they failed to develop boots that match women’s narrower feet and higher arches. And equipment design is not the only arena where this happens.

In her new book Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, journalist Caroline Criado Perez explains how researchers in fields from medicine to transportation fail to collect data on women. This affects aspects of daily life in the home, the workplace and everywhere in between, with results that range from inconvenient to deadly. For example, vehicle safety systems designed and tested based on the default male will not necessarily protect female bodies. Indeed, in a car crash, women are 17 percent more likely to die and 47 percent more likely to experience a serious injury than men are.

(Complete article…)