Women and Wearables

(Cover Photo by Owen Geronimo of SFFaMA)

(Cover Photo by Owen Geronimo of SFFaMA)

Many recent studies have shown how gender diversity improves the efficacy of teams.  (1)  Perhaps this and other initiatives for gender equality and social change are responsible for triggering a movement towards reform in our educational system.  Universities are starting to study the impact of introducing students to electronic textiles.  At Rowan University in Seattle, they found that they could make increases in women's confidence, interest, and engagement in electrical engineering by introducing first-year students to a simple textile LED project. (2)

Across the country, university programs are being created to specifically address the subject of integrating electronics and textiles as a way to engage women and encourage them to continue their education in STEM fields.

Are we sure we aren't just stereotyping?

Women like textiles.  Sounds kind of similar product philosophy "Pink it and Shrink it." (3)  Does that seem kind of ignorant?  

There have been studies that indicate that not only do women just "like" textiles, but women often engage with the creation of textiles in order to cope with stressful situations or anxiety.  Why do women love textiles?  According to this study, most say they're just beautiful, expressive, and feel somehow a part of identity. (4)

There is a long history of women making of textiles and garments.  At an early time, this was regarded with respect, as women were considered the creators of life.  Textiles and basket weaving made up some of the most important structures for shelter including clothing, fishing nets, baskets for gathering and storing food, and tents or shelter coverings.

The Male Maker Movement

The 'Right' Initiative

The Maker Movement has an 80% male demographic.  It is not attracting women.  Why?  Intel did an extensive report called MakeHers, which concluded that the Maker movement was the best way to reach young girls. (5)  The top four barriers they described was: "Lack of money, Lack of mentorship, Lack of information, Lack of access to tools and materials."  

If we do engage young girls in this movement, how does it effect their employability?  Most Makers are hobbyists, how can we ensure that we and engaging women beyond DIY?

Maker Culture is Changing

How do we overcome the hyper-masculine culture?  Maker Spaces are definitely not appealing to everyone.  They're sort of a mash-up of two historically masculine environments: a science lab and a garage.  Improving on nuances, like work environment affects who will be attracted.

The Maker Space at Dark Matter Manufacturing Collective

The Maker Space at Dark Matter Manufacturing Collective

The Design Office of Carolina Herrera.

The Design Office of Carolina Herrera.

You could see how both of these spaces, given the choice of where someone would like to work, would be polarizing based on demographic.  How do we design more inclusive, gender neutral spaces? (6)

 

Female Role Models THat Pioneered E-textiles

 

1.

Sabine Seymour, PhD

Sabine has written several books on the topic of wearable technologies including "Fashionable Technology, The Intersection of Design, Fashion, Science, and Technology" as well as "Functional Aesthetics, Visions in Fashionable Technology." 

 

2.

Leah Beuchley, PhD

Leah is a former MIT professor who combines historically feminine textiles arts with electronics.  She developed the LilyPad Arduino toolkit, as well as other smart textiles and soft circuit solutions for the Maker Community to create wearable projects.

 

3 & 4.

Mika Satomi & Hannah Perner-Wilson

For the past 10 years, Mika and Hannah have been collaborating on wearables projects and documentation.  Kobakant is a collective of their work.  Through this platform, they also published a DIY blog called How To Get What You Want.

 

5 & 6.

Limor Fried & Becky Stern 

Limor and Becky keep a blog on Adafruit for DIY projects with wearables using development boards and code libraries that they design and develop at Adafruit.

 

7.

Alison Lewis

Alison founded Switch Embassy, a fashion technology lab, based in San Francisco to build elegant, stylish products with electronics.  

 

8.

Billie Whitehouse

Founded Wearable Experiments in Australia after designing Fundawear for Durex.  Wearable Experiments has since been the innovator on many projects such as the football fan shirts, the navigation jacket, and the alert shirt.


All of these resources can also be found on thefashionrobot.com in the "Online Resources" section!

Ready to jump in?!  Follow this 10 minute LED Hack to Light-Up Any Garment.