Stop Just Marketing To Women and Start Designing For Women

You know, to save lives and all.

Picture this: a bunch of men sitting around a fancy conference table, scratching their heads, thinking, “Hey, how can we make more money and get more ladies to buy our stuff?”  And then it hits them like a ton of glittery bricks: let’s make the product smaller and in pink, and then we can charge more too!  Ok, I don’t know if that actually ever happened, but probably. 
“Shrink it and pink it” has been a super common way of designing and marketing products for women. 
“Shrink it and pink it” literally is as simple as companies taking products originally designed for men and giving them a girl​​y makeover. And somehow this makeover isn’t even close to like bedazzling the products with Swarovski crystals, but more like literally changing the color from blue to pink, and yet companies can charge more for that. 
This makeover extra charge is called the pink tax. 
The “pink tax” refers to the phenomenon where products marketed to women are priced higher than comparable products marketed to men. The pink tax is used to explain gender-based price discrimination.

Here are just some of the examples of products that commonly have the pink tax:

  1. Personal care products: Items like razors, shaving cream, deodorant, and soap marketed to women often have higher prices compared to similar products marketed to men.
  2. Clothes: Women’s clothing, including shirts, jeans, and accessories, tends to be priced higher than similar items in the men’s section, even when the quality and materials used are comparable.
  3. Haircare products: Shampoos, conditioners, and styling products marketed to women often have higher prices compared to similar products marketed to men. Men’s haircuts and grooming are also cheaper than women’s. 
  4. Health care items: Products such as menstrual hygiene products, birth control, and basic healthcare supplies targeted at women are often subject to additional taxes or higher prices compared to male-oriented products.
What the hell? How do we end this madness?

Shrink it and pink it can be deadly. 

It should be enough to make you a little mad that women’s dollar is 82 cents compared to men’s, and yet, products marketed to women are more expensive, making the financial gender equality gap even wider.  But it has far more dangerous consequences.  When they make things like sports equipment in slightly smaller sizes and slap on a generous coating of pink paint to sell it for women, it’s a lazy attempt to cater to women’s needs without really understanding women’s needs or physical anatomy.  In fact, gender-based design can even be deadly for women.   

Bad design kills women: 

Automotive Design 

Did you know women are 73 percent more likely than men to be seriously injured in a frontal car crash, almost twice as likely to become trapped in the wreckage of a car crash, and 17 percent more likely to die in a car crash?  Can you guess why?  Because cars are not designed for women’s bodies, instead they’ve gotten the shrink it and pink it (or “add a cup holder”) treatment.  One problem is crash test dummies. Historically, crash test dummies used in car safety tests were primarily based on the average male body, neglecting the anatomical and physiological differences of women. As a result, safety features such as seat belts, airbags, and car structures were not adequately tested for women, putting them at higher risk of injury or even death in car accidents. Finally, in 2022 (yes, last year), a Swedish engineer Astrid Linder decided to develop a new crash test dummy with women’s anatomy in mind.  Seat belt fit is another problem. Seat belts in cars are often designed with a male body frame in mind, which can lead to poor fit for women. The shoulder belt may be positioned too high, crossing the neck instead of the chest, which can cause severe injuries in a collision. Similarly, the lap belt might sit too high on the abdomen instead of across the hips, increasing the risk of internal organ damage.

Technology Design

If you have been deciding which smartwatch to buy, maybe some of their aesthetics might not appeal to you, or they feel too big on your wrist.  However, the main problem of many wearable technologies, such as fitness trackers or smartwatches, isn’t just that they’ve been primarily designed to fit larger man wrists, and they feel too big or don’t look good.  Many of the health trackers, like Fitbit and Nike, didn’t for example have a period tracking possibility in their first models. Neither did iPhone’s Health app when it was first released in 2014. The Health app, however, covered everything else from calorie count and respiratory rate to sodium intake.  The real problem is the inadequate functionality for women, as when the devices don’t fit properly, they might not accurately measure biometrics, affecting health monitoring. For example, when they measure things like blood pressure or heart beat wrong.  Another example is voice recognition software. Voice assistants and voice recognition systems have been found to have lower accuracy rates when processing female voices compared to male voices. Maybe not deadly if you are asking Alexa to play a song – deadly, if you ask your car to call an ambulance in an accident.

Professional gear, personal protective equipment (PPE) and tools.

Work-related gear such as safety helmets or harnesses are often designed based on male body proportions, resulting in ill-fitting gear for women. Poorly fitting PPE can compromise safety and increase the risk of injuries for female workers in male-dominated fields like construction or firefighting. Let’s add that tools have also been designed for larger hands, making it more challenging for women to grab or hold certain tools.

Medical equipment

Medical devices, such as heart rate monitors or blood pressure cuffs, have historically been designed with male patients in mind. This can lead to inaccurate readings for women, as their physiological characteristics differ from men. Incorrect diagnoses or treatment decisions based on flawed measurements can potentially have life-threatening consequences.   These examples underscore the importance of considering gender diversity in design, and why talking about gender equality is not just about being fair, but about protecting and saving women’s lives. 

Take action.

There is also a real business opportunity in designing products for women. Designing with and for women can open up new markets and make existing markets more profitable. Women are the largest economy in the world, and they have the purchasing power (but you don’t have to add extra, just because they are women).  In design teams, empower women as stakeholders and co-creators.  Invest in women’s design teams, and companies designing products specifically for women. Designing products specifically for women is not only a matter of equality and inclusivity but also a savvy business strategy. By recognizing and rectifying the gender bias in design, companies can tap into significant commercial opportunities.   

Crush Movement.

Are you interested in the cross-section of equality and business? We created Crush Movement and we’d like to invite you to join the group of rebel leaders taking action, and supporting others. Check out the Crush Event 2024, and join us in Helsinki, Finland.  

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