During the early years of radio, women sounded shrill. No, it was not their voices. Getting it right for the female voice takes more bandwidth– bandwidth that the radio stations were not allocated in the 1920s. As a result, microphones and other recording technology unpleasantly reproduced higher voice frequencies. They even failed to pick up the consonants.
The radio was not alone. When men do design for all of us, sometimes it works best for the men.
Ranking Cities For Women
Using five equally weighted criteria, Bloomberg Businessweek rated 15 cities for how they treat working women. Located around the world, the cities were all commercial hubs.
The scores were not high.
Their 1 to 5 scoring scale was based on five criteria. They assessed safety, mobility, maternity provisions, and equality. The fifth slot, wealth, included earnings potential and financial independence. To find out about wealth, some of the questions related to equal pay for the same job. For equality, a broader question asked about office cultures. Then, to add texture, they interviewed people.
No city received a high score in every area. Ranked #1, Toronto offered working women safety and equality but got a low mobility score because of its aging subways and traffic problems. Meanwhile, New York had a dismal 2.4 for safety. But equality and maternity fared better.
Indeed, cities tended to have a higher score in one area but not in others. The Asian cities had the safety but neither the wealth nor the equality. For the Europeans, women could count on maternity leave. The Bloomberg article points out that the study’s focus on public transport and walking meant Amsterdam’s biking culture received little credit.
This was the Bloomberg ranking:
Our Bottom Line: Choice Architecture
As we saw with sexist snow removal (yes, really) in Sweden, when men run cities, they fail to recognize what women need. Asking why, we can guess that it’s not intentional. However, a behavioral economist (and plain old logic) would say your policies depend on your “choice architecture.” In other words, our decisions depend on the environment in which we make them. They depend on the incentives that nudge public works departments, city councils, and pay scales.
I would suggest that when public policy and the corporate boardroom are dominated by men, then the choices they make reflect their own life experience. Male dominated choice architecture leads to gender inequity.
It leads to shrill radio voices and mediocre working women scores for 15 cities
My sources and more: Mostly, today’s facts came from Bloomberg. But also at econlife we looked at sexist snow removal and On the Media told about women’s shrill radio voices. Then, as in a previous post, I recommend Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Built By Men by Caroline Criado Perez. The book is excellent. One reason though that I found it so appealing was its confirmation of our previous post Pink it, Shrink It and Gender Design Discrimination. Do also read the NY Times 1975 article on the women’s strike in Iceland. It is short and gives you a good sense of the history. (Please note that today’s Bottom Line and Sources sections included several sentences from a previous econlife post.)