It’s an issue that started before the pandemic but has escalated now: the world is not designed for women. A general lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and a lowering of safety standards are putting women who cannot find properly-fitting PPE at great risk.
It is bad enough that a serious lack of available PPE means healthcare workers on the front lines of the COVID crisis must wear masks all day, taking them on and off to drink water and take breaks. But for some, namely women, the risk is even greater since the masks may not be working properly for them to begin with.
The Guardian reports: “One intensive care nurse revealed that half the women on her unit had failed the fit test – a rigorous process which ensures health workers wear the right size mask, which does not leak – on both of the FFP3 masks available. ‘The only men I know of that have failed are either very small, or ones that refuse to shave their beards so don’t get a tight fit. Sexism is very much present here,’ she said.” This trend has been corroborated by several sources, as reported by BBC, Refinery29, Forbes, and The Independent.
According to the National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory (NPPTL), PPE is “unisex” and N95 sizing differs depending on the model. According to female healthcare workers, PPE is designed for a European male face and its ill-fit to smaller faces causes physical pain and emotional toil as well as makes workers’ jobs harder and more dangerous. Keep in mind that females make up almost 80% of nurses in the UK, 90% of National Health Service (NHS) workers, and over 60% of workers joining the healthcare workforce in the United States.
“We are asking women to put their lives on the line in the NHS and in care settings for the good of society and we cannot even provide them with PPE – or when we do, it is not the right size,” Ms. Leanne Wood said in a statement to the government of Wales.