Making sport more of a level playing field - how product manufacturers & designers can help

Making sport more of a level playing field - how product manufacturers & designers can help

March 2023

For International Women's Day this month, 42T's engineers and designers looked into what sports coaches, athletes and product manufacturers need to consider to make sport more equitable. 

Between the rules on 'white shorts being mandatory in football' and 'uniform restrictions in volleyball' and other gender bias stories which are grabbing the headlines around major sporting events, we've been asking ourselves - where could there be room for improvement when it comes to designing with women in mind? Some of our engineers had some ideas summarised in this graphic:

Women in Sports v0.5-01_2620x2899 (2)

See below for references. Researched by Shreeya Patel, Michaela Hume, Sarah Knight, Marta Uncio Ribera, & Francesca Stephens

At 42T, we think that researching, understanding, talking to, and empathising with specific users in design is key. So with this in mind we picked just one area of interest to focus on - sport.

Of course, there are numerous other areas where the same thinking can be applied, but this is an area where a significant amount of bias exists and improvements and innovation could have a great impact in athletes’ well-being and performance.


The health, fitness, and wellness sectors are huge, and growing. Yet traditional sports are slow to innovate to prevent injury and increase popularity amongst women. Why is this the case, when these innovations could help promote inclusivity and benefit all who take part in such activities?

Asking the difficult questions

The implications of unbiased and innovative thinking of course go wider than gender equity. For example, other groups such as the disabled or 'differently-abled', who require adaptations to improve overall quality of life, could also see significant benefits.

This is where it may be useful to ask questions like 'what is equity?', 'where is there bias?', 'what types of bias exist?' and 'what can be done to improve?'. 

As 42T experts Craig Townsend, Sarah Knight and Marta Uncio Ribera have pointed out in their articles on data bias in healthcare, the importance of testing in real-world scenarios, and healthcare data gathering to create better devices, research and field testing is key.


(1) Sanderson, K. (2021). Why sports concussions are worse for women. Nature, [online] 596(7870), pp.26–28. doi:  

(2) BikeRadar. (2021). 5 approaches to women’s bike design. [online] Available at:

(3) Harvard Health Publishing (2021). Strength training builds more than muscles - Harvard Health. [online] Harvard Health. Available at:

(4) HuffPost UK. (2022). Meet The ‘Breast Biomechanic’ Fitting The Lionesses With The Best Bras. [online] Available at:

(5) Martin, D., Timmins, K., Cowie, C., Alty, J., Mehta, R., Tang, A. and Varley, I. (2021). Injury Incidence Across the Menstrual Cycle in International Footballers. Frontiers in Sports and Active Living, 3. doi:

(6) Cheng, J. (2019). What Size Boxing Gloves Should I Get? - Humble Challenger. [online] Available at:

(7,8) (2021). Is There a Difference Between Men’s and Women’s Soccer Cleats? [online] Available at:

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We believe in asking the right questions to drive innovation; when we know the right questions, we generate the ideas to answer them.