How gender stereotypes block our way to useful innovations

It’s a man’s world. Most of the statues, street names, and bank notes represent men. It’s also no secret that anthropology and history have focused on studying men, and when developing medicine the male body is often used as a starting point

The focus on men blinds us to the perspectives of roughly half of the population. The lack of information on women’s and non-binary people’s needs and experiences make males mainly determine what we see as universal. A phenomenon British journalist and activist Criado Perez calls the gender data gap. It’s this gap that stands in the way of useful inventions for everyone, including men.

Take as an example the rolling suitcase. While women were spotted pulling a suitcase on wheels back in 1952, it took 15 years before the suitcase industry dared to create suitcases on wheels. Why did it take so long for a relatively simple and useful invention to go mainstream?

It all had to do with gender stereotypes. The suitcase industry thought that rolling a suitcase was unmanly. In addition, they thought, most women didn’t travel, and if they did, they would  travel with their ‘strong and manly’ husband who could carry her luggage. They didn’t see any commercial potential in the rolling suitcase. It took over 15 years for the invention to go mainstream. 

This story carries an important lesson about innovation that we need to hear today. By only focusing on traditional gender stereotypes, you’ll create a blindspot for other interesting perspectives that could lead to innovations we all profit from. That’s why we at TrendsActive, look at the context in which people live. It helps us understand the more profound needs and behaviors of people. This allows us to guide brands towards designs that are based on people’s needs instead of assumptions.