Gender, Science & Technology: It’s all about the integration of gender-specific contents into natural sciences and technology. Why is this integration so important?
Products, materials, and services are often developed by men and for men. This is a phenomenon known from application-oriented research and medicine. Such products, materials, and services are often not convenient for women. An example: Today, cars are generally equipped with three-point safety belts, crossing over chest and abdomen. In case of an accident, this kind of belt is supposed to provide men and women with the best possible protection. However, in pregnant women, the abdominal belt can cause severe injuries to the fetus. In addition, these seat belts, developed for tall and strong men, are completely uncomfortable for small-stature women. Why was this not considered when the seat belts were designed? The dummies used in the safety test had been developed in the late 1940s for the U.S. Air Force. Therefore, men served as models. Only in 1996, was the first "pregnant" dummy developed at the University of Michigan. It provided important insight for the improvement of safety measures in vehicles.
There have also been cases of the opposite, when the particular needs of men were not taken into account in research. For instance, osteoporosis was for many years considered a typical postmenopausal disease. However, this has been proven wrong. In general, the bone density of men is higher than that of women. When the bone density of men is measured, the results are always higher than those of the female reference group, even if the tested men are suffering from osteoporosis. Therefore, it was important to also include men in the reference groups for bone density measurements, not only women. Today it is known that osteoporosis affects 30% of men at an advanced age.
These examples show that research is not good if gender-related aspects are not taken into account. Bad research can have serious consequences and, e.g. in inadequately developed drugs, lead to economic losses amounting to millions. In addition, particularly in application-oriented research, the opportunity to create new sales markets and discover new materials and products by means of reference-group-oriented development is missed.
Visiting Professorships on Gender, Science & Technology at ETH Zurich
In 2012 and 2013, ETH Zurich already had two visiting professorships on "Gender, Science & Technology". They are aimed at familiarizing students and researchers with how gender-specific aspects can be integrated into natural sciences and technology and what opportunities result from the integration of these aspects. In order to prevent future engineers and scientists from repeating the mistakes that were made in the past, it is important to also consider gender-specific differences in teaching.
ETH Zurich’s series of activities on "Gender, Science & Technology" started in November 2011 with the visit of Londa Schiebinger from Stanford University. The renowned historian of science is one of the world’s leading experts in this area. She is also heading the EU/US project "Gendered Innovations in Science, Health & Medicine, and Engineering".
fall 2012, Professor Martina Schraudner, head of the
Department of Gender and Diversity in Organizations at the Institute for
Machine Tools and Factory Management of the TU Berlin, will visit ETH Zurich for two month. She is a biologist and an expert in the development of instruments
for needs-based research planning at the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft head office.
She is familiar with both Switzerland and ETH Zurich where she worked for a
two-year research project at the Institute of Plant Biochemistry and Physiology
in the late 1990s. Martina Schraudner accepted the invitation by Equal! and
will use her visiting professorship to look into how gender aspects can be
further integrated into ETH's research and education.
Diese Website wird in älteren Versionen von Netscape ohne graphische Elemente dargestellt. Die Funktionalität der Website ist aber trotzdem gewährleistet. Wenn Sie diese Website regelmässig benutzen, empfehlen wir Ihnen, auf Ihrem Computer einen aktuellen Browser zu installieren. Weitere Informationen finden Sie auf
The content in this site is accessible to any browser or Internet device, however, some graphics will display correctly only in the newer versions of Netscape. To get the most out of our site we suggest you upgrade to a newer browser.