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Gender bias in design, and how to address it in design education

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This thesis discusses the role of gender bias indesign and explores how attention to genderand sex in design can be addressed in designeducation, specifically in the first semester of thenew bachelor of Industrial Design Engineeringat the TU Delft that will start in 2021. As willbe discussed in this report, not consideringgender and sex in design can result in productsor services that unintentionally exclude part ofa target group. Considering gender and sexin the design process can help to identify newopportunities and make a product work betterfor a wider range of users. The aim of thisproject was to increase students’ awarenessof the role of gender and sex in design, andto offer them guidance on how to approachconsideration of gender and sex in their work.This thesis explored the influence of genderbias in design, the context of the first semester,existing tools to educate about gender bias, andthe perspective of the design students on thetopic. This was done through literature review,semi-structured interviews, desk research,creative sessions, and concept testing.Gender bias is the term used to describeassumptions and prejudices on the basis ofgender and sex.Sex refers to biological characteristics such asheight, weight, and physiology. Gender impliessociocultural attitudes and behaviours thatshape women’s and men’s behaviour, products,technologies, environments and knowledge.(Schiebinger, Klinge, Sánchez de Madariaga,Paik, Schraudner, & Stefanick, 2011-2018).When products exclude users based ondifferences in gender or sex, these productsrepresent a gender bias. As a result of different(ideas about) bodies, roles and obligations,women and men often lead different lives andhave different experiences. When a designeraims to design for women and men, therefore,both should be involved in research and testing.Through the collection and analysis of examplesof gender biased designs it was found thatthey can be summarised in three categories.In most examples, gender biased design wascaused by the use of standards that were notrepresentative for all users. In some cases, itwas caused by the associations of the designerwith what is male or female, that were reflectedin the final product. Lastly, gender biased designwas caused by not considering the differencein behaviour between women or men in thetarget group. The three themes can serve as aguide on how to analyse gender biased designand can be used to identify what to look out forwhen aiming to design in a gender considerateway.The result of this project is the “becomeaverage” advertising campaign, that consists ofprovocative posters that criticize gender biases,and a website that gives more information. Theposters are distributed throughout the facultyto attract the attention of design students. Theposters guide students to the webside via aQR code. On the website, more informationabout the campaign can be found, as well asan introduction to the topic of gender bias indesign, and advice for gender consideratedesign. In this way, students are introduced tothe topic of gender bias and receive means toexplore the topic further.