When Eloise Walsh was in a horrific car accident in 2015, there was one thing her recovery team kept telling her.
They told her there was something beyond her control that could have prevented her extensive injuries – injuries which included crushed bones in her left foot, a broken nose, dislocated hips and broken ribs.
They told her that if she’d just had a different physical build, she might have escaped unscathed.
Listen to The Quicky explore the dangers of living in a world designed by men. Post continues after podcast.
“If you’d been a bit taller, this wouldn’t have happened,” the fireman who rescued Eloise told her.
Eloise explained to Claire Murphy, the host of Mamamia’s daily podcast The Quicky, that she had hit a light post at 70 km/h after passing out due to heat stroke on a sweltering 45 degree day.
Eloise was wearing a seat belt, but because she was sitting closer to her steering wheel than someone taller – for example, a man – her injuries were more severe.
It was an opinion echoed by her doctor.
“If you’d weighed, you know, 10 more kilos, if you were just a bit taller, none of this would have happened,” her doctor later explained.
This is because the seat belt – the device we’re told will hinder severe injuries in road accidents – is designed with the average male as the test height and weight.
In the 1960s, the crash test dummies used in testing vehicle collisions were based on the average male. This only sparked an alteration to crash test dummy design in 2011, following the findings of a study conducted by the University of Virginia’s Centre for Applied Biomechanics.
The University of Virginia study demonstrated that women wearing seat belts were 47 per cent more likely than male seat belt-wearers to sustain severe injuries during road accidents, and 71 per cent more likely for moderate injuries.
“Hopefully, with increased understanding of injury tolerance and prediction, automotive manufacturers, auto safety policymakers and injury prevention researchers can work together to make vehicles safer for the entire population,” one of the graduate students, Carolyn Roberts had said of the study.
But seat belts and crash test dummies aren’t the only design disadvantages women face.
Mechanical engineer Kat Ely spoke to The Quicky about the pitfalls of living in a world engineered predominantly by, and for, men.
In an article she published in 2015, she says that a male bias dominates our daily lives.
Her studies surround a number of factors which impact our day-to-day lives – from tools, to medicine, even the temperature of your office.
She says in many cases, women are left out of the equation because design teams so often consist of mainly men.
“The process of designing is going through a lot of different iterations,” she explains.
“(The people designing) tend to design for the people around them which is a very natural thing to do, but if there are just men in the room they’re going to design something that’s going to be comfortable for them, that fits ergonomically, that fits height-wise, weight-wise, and then if women tend to be smaller framed, have smaller hands, it might not fit them,” she says.