Women, Explorers and Technology
If you do an internet search for “famous explorers”, you will see that a huge majority of the names that come up are men. As we have seen with the case of Isabella Bird, women have had fewer opportunities to travel and adventure than men. Further, it’s not often that we hear the stories of women explorers.
Gender Bias in Technology Design
See Supporting Links for more information on the issues raised below.
- Only 11% of people who have been to space are women. Nasa has planned the first all-woman spacewalk. But in March 2019, it was put on hold. This was due to the lack of spacesuits that fitted their bodies.
- Having the correct equipment and clothing is key for successful expeditions. In a range of industries, equipment, clothing and technology has been designed with a male body in mind, and does not incorporate enough data on women.
White Male Bias in Technology Design
- Explorers often enter extreme environments. Near the summit of Mount Everest, there is not enough available oxygen for humans to breathe, and so oxygen masks are required. The masks that were made for the first International Everest expedition in 1971 were designed to fit the faces of white men, and the differences in the face shapes of the Sherpas from Nepal were not factored in.
- Sherpas lead groups up Mount Everest. They are highly skilled and play essential roles in expeditions like the one in 1971. See Supporting Links for more information on the importance of Sherpas for climbing Mount Everest, including a video from University of Leeds graduate and mountaineer, Kenton Cool.