The global population is roughly split equally between men and women. Avoiding all biases, one would infer that in a fair world, most of the things would be split down the middle. But the more you look around, the more you’d see that this world has been built for men, by men. There are few products which are equally suited for both men and women, and those which are only for women, often are flawed in concept or design.
How do I come to that conclusion?
Let me start off with a scary fact. Did you know that car crash tests have always been predominantly done for men? Car manufacturers have mostly been assuming that their customers are men. Due to such bias in crash tests, female drivers are 17% more likely to be killed in a car crash than men. If that’s not staggering enough for you, a female passenger seated in front has a 73% more likelihood of sustaining serious injuries than a male passenger, despite wearing a seat belt.
When this point is raised, people are likely to say that this is because women don’t drive much, or women can’t drive. But the truth is that in the US where this test was quoted, the proportion is almost 50-50. It is true that men might be more likely to crash due to drunken driving or rash speed bursts. But it doesn’t consider the fact that when half the drivers are men, the other half could be victims too. If you want to know more about this study, refer to this link.
So, the question I want to ask in this post is, why do we have such a lopsided way of thinking while designing products. Is it our lack of imagination, or ignorance, or do we not care enough?
Brands pay a lot of attention to detail usually. Especially when it comes to addressing the needs of the target group. But in the case of women, I get the feeling that marketers fall terribly short at times. Many products do not seem to be well thought out and well designed.
To elucidate my point a bit further, let me cite a couple of the women products.
For me, comfort is a key criteria for any clothing or footwear that I have to wear daily to office. Years of running has taught me that shoes are extremely critical for the well being of your back. But have you ever seen a brand which boasts of comfortable women’s shoes? Well, there might be some exceptions which I do not know about. But in general, whenever I accompany my wife to the shopping malls, we find the stores thoroughly lacking choices which tick all the boxes: good looking, comfortable, durable, etc.
There was this one time, when she found a pretty looking pair, and ended up buying it. But its flip side was that the straps were placed on the outer side of your feet, near the ankle. Imagine you are putting it on your right foot. You would have to reach down to the right side of your right foot with both your hands to be able to tie it. I dare you to try it right now and tell me how comfortable it was for you to accomplish this. For me, my left hand can’t even make it to the outer ankle without discomfort. Clearly the person who came up with the design never tried it on himself or herself.
I also get the feeling that maybe product designers are lagging behind in their thought-process and the concept of working women has not yet caught up with their design thinking. I look at the shoes I wear to office and then I look at what my wife wears, there is a stark difference in comfort levels. I have shoes with soles that support my feet, while her shoes barely have soles.
I also feel that I get to wear shoes according to the shape of my feet, while women have limited options, those that do not consider the variance in the type of feet.
So, there is a lot of room for improvement here I guess.
Let’s move to trousers and jeans.
Ever noticed the size of the pockets in women’s clothing? In today’s date, when all phone manufacturers are growing the size of their devices, the world of trouser makers are still holding on to the concept of tiny pockets for women. I have heard umpteen comments by women complaining about their pocket sizes. See this post below by Alicia Souza on instagram. Its funny, but at the same time, it makes me wonder, why we aren’t getting better at this?
Forget about phones, those pockets are not even good enough to carry a wallet or any hard cash if required. Where are we going wrong with this?
These are just a couple of things that I am aware of with the limited exposure that I have. But if we were to do a Focus Group Discussion (FGD), we might be able to uncover a great deal of stuff that can be done a lot better.
The point in this post is that maybe there is a lot of opportunity here. I believe there is a latent need that needs to be addressed.
Imagine a brand that understands women really well, and promises to deliver products which are test marketed for women, considering their working needs, their physique. Think of a brand which builds products according to the attributes of women, instead of defining the way women should look, or shape themselves to. It would be a brand that listens to women, instead of telling women who or what they should be. There is some food for thought here for potential entrepreneurs.
Start ups across the world are cropping up at an amazing rate, but I am surprised nobody has initiated something like this yet; at least none that I am aware of. The role of a start-up is to solve problems and add value to the lives of people. I believe in the world of women, this value addition has long been ignored. It is about time someone with a knack for it took it up as a business case and did something about it.
As I close the week here, with a drink in my hand, and listening to soft piano peals, I hope some good folks out there would read this and put some effort towards making a world with better products. I would definitely drink to that.