What is Gender Data Gap and How to Close It?
Published on: 28.04.2022
Women are offered smartphones designed for male-sized hands and they are supposed to carry those devices in clothes with tinny pockets or no pockets at all
Many believe that the world we live in is designed for men. Let’s start with a simple example. It is a fact that innovative disposable sanitary pads were first used for men. Even though millions of menstruating women would have been grateful to have such a product, the bloodiness of World War I was needed to make reusable pads a thing. Pads made of cellulose were first used to stop excessive bleeding in wounded soldiers. However, the nurses treating the soldiers noticed that the cellulose pads worked well as reusable menstrual pads too. After the war, the U.S-based company that initially produced the war pads caught up on the market opportunity for sanitary napkins. Thus, it rebranded its first product and sold it as the first known brand of disposable menstrual pads.
One might say: “This story dates back to a century ago. Things have improved now.”
Well, not that much. The phenomenon is still here and it’s known as the gender data gap. This refers to inequality in terms of gender representation in opinions and attitudes regarding an array of topics that vary from everyday products to public issues. In simple words, this means that the opinion and perspective of women are somehow ignored in matters of medicine and healthcare, science and technology gear, safety features, etc. The lack of recorded data from women impacts their lives in different ways. From small pockets to lack of medical research, there’s a lot to improve.
The Yentl Syndrome and the gender data gap in women’s health
You may have heard about the Yentl Syndrome. If not, the term is used to describe a strange but common phenomenon (named after the 1983 Yentl movie). According to the Yentl Syndrome women are misdiagnosed, especially about cardiovascular issues, treated poorly, or mistreated unless their symptoms are the same or conform to men’s symptoms. In other words, if a sick woman doesn’t fill in with the sick-man stereotype, she might get misdiagnosed. This happens because numerous researches, preventive methods, and risk-prediction models were developed based on male-dominating focus groups. Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of mortality in women, accounting for 49 percent of all deaths, compared to 40 percent in men. Despite this, even in contemporary research, female patients are poorly represented in trials. Thus, the Yentl Syndrome can result fatally in women as doctors fail to spot risk signs or miss heart attacks in their patients.
Another example of a not-female-friendly design is the CPR training manikins. Women are not represented as people that have heart attacks, at least in training dummies.
People learning how to do CPR have been trained on male/flat-chested dummies. The gap in female manikins was considered a key reason why women were 27 less like than men to receive CPR from bystanders in public. People are less comfortable giving CPR to an unknown woman as the procedure requires touching her chest. Moreover, those who were taught on a male manikin have difficulties recognizing where to perform compression on a woman’s body. A New York-based agency came up with the idea of a universal west with silicone breast that can be used on the traditional flat-chested dummy. The Womanikin goal is to challenge biased CPR training and bring awareness to gender disparities in bystanders’ prompt intervention.
Speaking of dummies and women’s health, the gender data gap is present in the crash test too.
The diversity of body shapes and genders was not common in the United States car crash tests. Dummy hybrids were modeled to conform to the average-man size from the 1970s. Meanwhile, the female dummy was just a smaller male model and it didn’t take into consideration anatomic and muscle differences. Moreover, safety features in vehicles have been based on that hybrid for about five decades even though the average body size has changed significantly. Then, about ten years ago, proper women dummies were introduced, but they were mostly tested in the passenger seat or the back seat. On the other hand, data from 2019 show that women were 73 percent more likely to be seriously injured in a frontal car accident. The gender data gap is to be blamed too.
Such a concerning issue reached Congress in 2021 when Congresswoman Norton announced a bill that would require the use of crash test dummies modeled both on male and female bodies.
On the other hand, innovative companies are working to improve vehicle safety by developing more inclusive and advanced crash models. Some of them don’t use dummies at all. They use virtual testing systems and computer-generated models.
Why does it matter to fill the gender data gap?
Filling the gender data is important because it makes women and girls visible. It also paves the way to create trans-inclusive workplaces and societies for gender fluid and non-binary individuals. People no matter their gender should be equally included in surveys, research, testing, statistics, etc.
On the other hand, equal gender representation in statistics and research contributes to the 2030 Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to not leave anyone behind.
At the same time, it’s an opportunity for innovative entrepreneurs. As they capture better the realities in the lives of men and women, they can develop a solution that ensures equality but also more inclusive products and services. Considering the current gap in gender data, there is a lot of potential for innovative solutions. Can you help design an equal world? Do you have an idea or project that helps make your society more gender-inclusive? Submit it to the Citizen Entrepreneurship Competition 2022 #CEC22. Do you need some help to polish your entrepreneurial skills? Take the free online entrepreneurship training offered by the Entrepreneurship Campus. You can also be part of a global community of entrepreneurs of different ages, make new friends and ask for their opinions and expertise on how to further develop and improve your innovative solution. Register now!