Men and women are different.

This used to not be a shocking statement, but after what James Damore went through at Google, it can seem somewhat controversial to point out that there are differences between the sexes.

Regardless of brain differences, though, we have definite body differences. The average American man is 5'9" tall while the average woman is 5'4" tall

As a tall woman (5'8") I haven't thought much about height differences. I can reach the top shelf and my feet have no problem resting on the floor in any chair. But, for many women, being shorter and having hips and breasts can be a huge hazard in the workplace and life in general. 

The Guardian collected a number of things where women are at a disadvantage simply because their shapes and heights are different than the average man. Of course, averages are averages and a man who is 6'8" or 5'2" will run into problems that the 5'10" woman will not, but overall, being smaller can have problems.

For instance, crash test dummies, according to the Guardian, weren't based on women until 2011 in the US. Seat belts sit differently when you have a chest and hips. Safety equipment is based on male body shapes, which means that buying a smaller size can mean ill-fitted, because the average man--even a short one--doesn't have rounded hips and breasts. They shared the following example, which is horrifying:

When it comes to frontline workers, poorly fitting PPE can prove fatal. In 1997, a British female police officer was stabbed and killed while using a hydraulic ram to enter a flat. She had removed her body armour because it was too difficult to use the ram while wearing it. Two years later, a female police officer revealed that she had had to have breast-reduction surgery because of the health effects of wearing her body armour. After this case was reported, another 700 officers in the same force came forward to complain about the standard-issue protective vest.

Annoyance or a real problem?

These things can be deadly, of course, but there are also things like the average size of bricks, portfolios, and even smartphones, that can make working more difficult. Can a woman keep up with her male coworkers if she has to use two hands to pick up bricks?

Clearly, women are capable of texting on their phones, just as men are, but with smaller hands it can be difficult, not to mention, where do you put it if our professional wardrobe lacks pockets? Do we have to carry our purses around all the time? 

Solutions in the office

Most of us don't work fields that require bullet proof vests, but there are still problems with the differences between men and women. Where do you store office supplies? Are there things on a top shelf that only the tall people can reach? Add a stool.

Are your desks and chairs made for the average man and not the actual humans who work at your office? Today there are a variety of desks and tables that can be raised and lowered base on the preferences of the user. Consider that you might want to do so.

If your company develops products, consider how it might work for differently shaped and sized people. And while it's more appropriate in and office setting to put on a sweater than to take off your shirt, maybe consider everyone's comfort or provide space heaters for people who want them.

Think about different solutions--does that product have to be that way? Why? Stop being bound by things created 100 years ago. And if you do work in safety based businesses, please don't treat women like smaller men.

Published on: Feb 25, 2019
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