Why Gender Equality In The Workplace Is Not Enough

Most organizations recognize the benefits of having a gender diverse workplace in the modern economy—equal hiring practices lead to higher engagement, more creativity, and better talent recruitment. But are there benefits that go beyond equal numbers of men, women, and gender-diverse people in the room?

Londa Schiebinger, a Professor of History of Science at Stanford and Director of the Gender Innovations in Science, Health & Medicine, Engineering, and Environment Project, has a unique take on this question.  She points out that in business and industry, “gender variables” are all about spurring creativity and innovation; but in science, gender variables can mean the difference between life and death. Her research has led to the development of numerous case studieshighlighting innovation gaps due to lack of gender insight.  She cites three of these examples:

Seat belts: Seat belts are not optimized to fit pregnant women. The three-point seat belt, developed in the 1950s and still in use today rides up on the pregnant belly, putting the fetus and mother at risk. As a result, motor vehicle crashes continue to be a leading cause of fetal death related to maternal trauma. What is needed is a seat belt for pregnant women.