‘Bill to Require Gender Equality in Dummies’

No, that’s not an Onion headline — it’s a story about a deadly serious issue.

Author: Michelle Russell       

female crash dummy

In June, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) announced that she will introduce a bill mandating that car crash test dummies be modeled on both male and female bodies.

Michelle Russell

Michelle Russell

We were about to sail through an intersection but we never made it to the other side. Last fall, my daughter, Megan, was driving me and her infant daughter to meet friends at a park — we had the right of way and Megan was focused on the road ahead, when I saw out of the corner of my eye a car on the left headed straight toward us. “BRAKE!” I screamed. The oncoming car hit our front end, hard, but had Megan not slammed on the brakes, who knows what would have happened. Our airbags deployed, and we walked away without a scratch and the baby barely woke from her nap. The car, unfortunately, was totaled.

I was beyond grateful we had safely survived the crash but was spooked for weeks. After decades of driving, I felt as anxious as a teen with a learner’s permit when I got behind the wheel.

I’ve come to realize since then just how lucky we really were. A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Virginia’s Center for Applied Biomechanics revealed that belted female auto occupants have 73-percent greater odds of being seriously injured in frontal car crashes than men.

A good part of the reason for that is that most vehicle-crash safety tests use a female dummy that’s based on the male body type — and she isn’t put in the driver’s seat for front-impact starred-safety tests. In the U.S., autos are not required to be tested with the safety of women in mind.

Thankfully, that’s about to change. In June, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) announced that she will introduce a bill mandating that car crash test dummies be modeled on both male and female bodies.

So, what’s this got to do with this issue and the business events industry? Bear with me just a bit longer.

I recently read that researchers from several business schools examined how many patents are awarded to men and women, and what those patents are for. While women are more likely than men in the biomedical field to come up with new medications and technologies for women’s health, men still receive a greater share of patents. Which means that society is losing out on inventions — like crash-test dummies that accurately represent the female anatomy — that could greatly improve women’s health, safety, and lives.

We wondered: What role can business, scientific, and medical events play in closing that patent gap? Deputy Editor Barbara Palmer posed that question to 500 Women Scientists, a nonprofit group dedicated to making science open, inclusive, and accessible. A Black scientist had a brilliant and direct answer — offer sessions for women on how to navigate the patent process. Read our Ascent column to learn more.

It’s the kind of story we’re especially proud to publish in Convene — where we identify a problem or challenge in our world and draw a line to how business events can drive solutions.

Coming Around

The pandemic isn’t over yet, but we are starting to return to work and face-to-face events. It’s not, however, like turning the clock back to 2019. In this issue, we explore: