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AMU Male Bias in Car Crash Testing and Medical Research Discussion

AMU Male Bias in Car Crash Testing and Medical Research Discussion


Does diversity make a difference when it comes to technology? Some might argue it doesn’t matter who designs their phone, or who creates the search engine they use, or who develops the next hit video game, as long as they meet the end users’ needs. Others would counter that a diverse workplace helps create better products and services. But did you know that in some cases, diversity may be a matter of life and death?

You’re probably familiar with car crash tests in which automobiles equipped with dummies are rammed into barriers at various speeds and angles to determine their safety in a collision. Interestingly, the dummies used are based on a 50th percentile male from the 1970s in terms of height and weight. Because the average American male is now considerably heavier than he was 50 years ago, the dummies no longer represent the average male, nor do they account for physiological differences between male and female bodies and how they react in collisions. For some tests, a smaller male dummy is used, equivalent to a 12-year-old boy, but no female dummies are used (Barry, 2019).

On average, men drive more than women. Men are more likely than women to speed, drive recklessly, or drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. One might assume then that men are more likely to die in car crashes than women, but the opposite is true. Women are 17% more likely to be killed in a car accident than men and are 73% more likely to be seriously injured (Barry, 2019). There are a variety of possible reasons for these outcomes, but the fundamental reason seems to be that automakers design their cars to earn a passing grade on government crash tests, and because the crash test dummies are patterned after males, it’s no surprise that cars tend to protect them better.

Caroline Criado-Perez, author of Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men(2019), shows that in addition to car crash dummies, male bias is shown in many other aspects of life. For instance, heart attack symptoms are often different for males and females, but the typical male heart attack symptoms are considered normal, but female heart attack symptoms are regarded as atypical. In addition, men and women have different comfort zones when it comes to temperature, but workplaces usually set thermostats to suit male preferences.

Let’s discuss the issue of male bias with an eye toward solutions.

As you make your opening post this week, consider the following questions.

  • What changes should be made in car crash testing to make cars safer for all occupants? Why do you think these changes haven’t been made yet?
  • Aside from the examples provided here, what other examples of male bias can you think of? How would you solve these problems?
  • Would having more women in positions of leadership help solve these problems? Why or why not?

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