Why you should design for women

Key take aways from the EGGS for Breakfast seminar: "Designing for Women's Health”

Design and innovation are crucial in supporting an equal, fair, and inclusive world. Yet, numerous designs don't consider women as users – not even some products for an experience so female as giving birth. In this article, we'll explain why you should include women when designing and innovating, and why that also means a successful and profitable business.

A vaginal speculum designed to facilitate a man’s work

It’s no secret that women have been underrepresented in various fields, and product design is no exception. This lack of representation has resulted in products that don’t fill women's needs and have limited women’s opportunities and even their health and safety.

You might have heard of the fact that bulletproof vests are designed to protect male torsos (but not female), noticed that your hand is too small to hold your phone (if you’re a woman), or that speaker voice controls listen better to the man in the family than the woman? That’s because they were designed by men, for men. That even goes for the vaginal speculum, which was developed in the 1800s by a male gynecologist studying enslaved women’s genitals. The design – a metallic «opener» for vaginas – has almost not been modified since. Yes, you heard that right.

In this article, we will outline why including women when designing new products is not only good for women – it’s good for everyone.

Image caption: The vaginal speculum was developed by a male physician in the 1800s, and its design has largely remained the same since. The product has a dark history: the women involved at the time were enslaved women used as test objects, without any possibility to give input or set any boundaries. The product was designed with the sole purpose of making the make physicians' work easier, with no regard for the female patient. (Image credits: https://history-of-obgyn.com/diagnosis.html)

1. It’s profitable

Inclusion when designing new products is not a “socially responsible” thing to do” – it makes good business sense. In the case of women, we make up roughly 50% of the global market. So, unless you are designing a product exclusively destined for men, including women, when doing your user insights, market research, and testing, it is definitely a smart thing to do. The more people a product meets the needs of – the bigger the potential market success.

"Women make about 80% of health-related purchases and decisions, according to data from McKinsey."
Data from McKinsey*


2. It reduces risk

Unnecessary risk is never desirable in any business. In heavily regulated industries, like the health sector, for example, reducing risk is both complex and crucial since you cannot test a product on people before a clinical study has been done. A clinical study, in its turn, can only be done after the product is basically completely developed due to regulatory limitations. By including as many different user groups as possible during the design and development of a product, you can reduce the risk of failure later. Reduced risk is, of course, also a positive thing to present to potential investors.

3. Women are NOT a niche market

As we mentioned earlier, women and products for women are often seen as a niche market – often with smaller financial potential. Especially in the healthcare sector, where female health is often seen as a subgroup to general health products and health services. Evidently, that is not true. Especially since women make about 80% of health-related purchases and decisions, according to data from McKinsey.

"It’s important to say that you don’t need to be a woman to design for women. The most important thing in all user-centered processes is to look at the experience from the user’s perspective. In this case – a woman’s."
Hanne Eidsvik, Designer, EGGS Design

Image caption: At the EGGS for Breakfast seminar in Trondheim on March 23rd, our experts on designing for women’s health shared their insights. From the left: Gøril Fluge Storrø (Healthtech Lead), Maren Sjåholm Rimehaug (Industrial Designer) and Hanne Eidsvik (Designer).

4. It contributes to a safer, healthier society

It seems obvious, but including women in innovation, especially when developing products that are made to be used by women specifically, will make society a friendlier, fairer place to live. Do you remember the speculum made of metal we mentioned initially? That’s a great example of a product whose redesign, with women in mind, can make a big difference. Let’s take a closer look:

The case of Iola Induvita

Due to its high efficacy and low risk, most labour inductions in Norway are done with balloon catheters inserted through the maternal cervix to simulate pressure on the cervix and induce labour. However, the device currently used for this procedure is not designed for its purpose: The catheter is usually a male urinary catheter, and the speculum is the same speculum mentioned above, made of metal and designed to facilitate the work for doctors to examine women’s genitals.

This tremendously adversely affects the birth experience for the woman being subjected to the induction. It is unpleasant and can reduce the body's natural and essential production of oxytocin during labour. This can, in turn, affect the bonding between infant and mother, as well as the breastmilk production and subsequent success of breastfeeding after birth. In short – designing a product with the woman in mind, in this case, has a huge potential for improving one of life’s most significant experiences – giving birth and being born.

Together with the Norwegian startup Induvita, EGGS have had the privilege to work on a new design – the Iola induction kit.

To the left: the speculum in metal. To the right: Induvita's new speculum designed in softer, friendlier materials.
Image caption: The Iola induction kit is the first developed specifically for pregnant women. The balloon catheter is designed for its purpose, with the correct dimensions. The healthcare staff can handle the equipment more easily and requires less time and resources to be used so that staff can focus on the woman. And, perhaps most importantly, the catheter is shorter and designed to be inserted and stay comfortably in the vagina, and the speculum is designed in a softer, more friendly material.

Do you need more reasons to start including women in your product development? Or do you want to learn more and have a chat about the topic or the Iola Induvita project? Get in touch!

Sounds interesting?

Maren Sjåholm Rimehaug

You should talk to Industrial Designer/Service Designer
Maren Sjåholm Rimehaug
+47 900 55 398

Hanne Eidsvik

Let's talk to Designer
Hanne Eidsvik
+47 918 83 811

Gøril Fluge Storrø

You should talk to Health Tech Lead
Gøril Fluge Storrø
+47 416 19 503

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