Making a Clean Breast of It: The Case for Female Inventors

Elizabeth Edwards, Clare Collins

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It is a well-known fact that women are under-represented in engineering and technology. Our earlier article explored the under-representation of female inventors.

On this International Women’s Day, we celebrate an innovation for women, made by women, which highlights the importance of female inventors.

Women Busting Crime

Across the UK, women make up around a third of the police force. The greatest proportion of women are employed in uniformed roles, such as a constable.

Body armour is an essential part of the modern uniform of a constable and, in particular, an armoured vest or soft armour worn to protect the torso. The majority of body armour worn by female police officers comprises a unisex vest. Unfortunately, the unisex vest was not specifically designed to accommodate the difference between male and female torsos.

Flat-Chested

Unisex body armour typically consists of two flat panels, one to protect the back of the torso and one to protect the front, joined by shoulder straps. Tapes or bands at the waist may be used to tighten the vest for a secure fit.

When surveyed, women reported that their body armour painfully compressed their bust with jostling and movement of the armour during physical activity being especially painful. Women also stated that wearing a fully loaded tactical vest over the body armour applied additional downward pressure to the chest, exacerbating the problem. Other medical conditions such as sores and rashes underneath the bust, cysts, stooping posture, and strain injuries have also been attributed to wearing of these ill-fitting items.

Wearing mandatory items of uniform can cause pain, discomfort and anxiety, sometimes leading to low levels of wellbeing, motivation and effectiveness among these female officers. Women have been reported to take time off due to sickness and have even left the force due to medical issues relating to body armour. These women are pushed to make a choice between their job and their health.

A Load Off Your Chest

Aware of some of the issues of women who wear unisex body armour face, innovators in specialist clothing and equipment for military, police and security personnel, Murgitroyd client Arktis Ltd., embarked on an experimental project to find a solution.

Determined to provide women with the comfortable and practical equipment they deserve, Arktis engaged in collaboration with police officers to put various designs through their paces and refine an eventual product offering. The officers engaged enthusiastically with the trials, complying with the obligations, contributing valuable results and providing thoughtful insight and feedback.

As well as being comfortable, the women participating in the trial reported improved posture, wellbeing, and safety. In addition, they found their performance improved, due to being able to focus on the job in hand rather than any aches and pains caused by the body armour.

Supporting Women’s Voices

By addressing the problem of ill-fitting body armour with a women-specific solution, informed directly by women at every stage, Arktis are developing a solution that is likely to be highly relevant, effective and suitable for all female police officers that are required to wear this protective clothing.

The solution provided by Arktis was very well received and demonstrates the vital importance of women’s representation in innovation and particularly female inventors.

Breast Practices

When inventors seek out the challenges faced by women, listen to their complaints and address their problems, solutions can be developed that improve the lives of thousands. By providing solutions for ill-fitting body armour, not only do female police officers have comfortable and equipment, but other benefits, such as improved retention of female officers, can be achieved. Increased focus and effectiveness from a third of UK police officers can only be a positive outcome.

Protecting the Assets

Keen to protect their innovation, Arktis turned to Murgitroyd for assistance in filing a patent application. Excited by the potential impact of the technology, we were delighted to work with Arktis regarding their solution.

At Murgitroyd, we are passionate about technological innovation for women and FemTech. If you’re innovating to improve women’s lives, get in touch with Clare Collins for a free initial chat about your technology.

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