Today is the first day of the global corporate challenge (or GCC), a challenge where you team up with six of your closest workmates and try to walk 10,000 steps (or more) per day each. The theory is that by increasing workers’ average number of steps from 3,500 (the stated pre-challenge average on the GCC web site) to 10,000, those who participate in the challenge will see an increase in health and wellbeing from their increased activity levels.
Making people feel better is an admirable goal, and despite the wider issues with the GCC (for example prioritisation of walking over all other forms of activity, as evidenced by the ridiculously stingy cycle to walk conversion, the “speeding ticktets” issued for those who do too much exercise, and the relatively rigid defninition of an athlete) both testimonials and research show that it is helping at least some of its participants to feel better, and that’s a good thing.
In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that I am regular exerciser (on average 6 days per week) who does a variety of types of exercise (cycling, walking, aerobics, weight training, swimming, yoga…), who is female, and who is participating in the GCC. As a participant, and as a usability consultant I have one major problem with how things work within the parameters of the GCC: The pedometers we have been issued.
The rules of the GCC state that steps can only be entered from the official GCC pedometer (each participant gets two pedometers at the beginning of the challenge). Given that one could reasonably expect that approximately 50% of participants are likely to be women (or maybe slightly more, if we take into account that cross culturally, women appear to walk more than men (PDF)) the choice of pedometer design for the challenge seems less than ideal.
The pedometer is the type designed to be worn on a waistband, completely upright, at one’s hip. Moreover it does not have the type of clip that opens and closes, but rather it slides down over the top of a waistband. This makes it considerably difficult to wear with a wide variety of women’s clothing:
- Women’s trouser styles are much more likely to have trousers stop at the waist (or above the hip) than men
- Skirts are often held up by women’s hips, meaning they too sit higher than the ideal for pedometer placement
- Dresses leave nowhere to clip the pedometer at all. Given that this is a coroporate challenge, and women are in some corporations required to wear a skirt (and that even where it is not required, in some places it is recommended), the pedometer not really working with a dress seems a considerable oversight)
- Belts and sashes make the pedometer difficult to clip on because of the thickness of the material
- The style of clip means the pedometer is much more likely than an open-close clip to come off when trousers are pulled down–arguably something women are likely to do more often than men.
There are alternative styles of pedometer (including those that can be worn around the neck or placed in a bag, and watch-style pedometers), so I assume that the pedometer chosen by the GCC was based on some combination of accuracy and price. In my opinion, neither accuracy nor price can justify the difficulty presented to women by this model of pedometer (when alternatives are available. Clip-style pedometers are only accurate when worn at all (impossible with some women’s clothing), and worn in the right place, so many women’s readings will not be accurate. The entry fee for the GCC was nearly $100 AUD per person, and for this it would seem considerably more sensible to supply participants with pedometers that actually count all their steps accurately, rather than providing backpacks, hats, water bottles and extra pedometers.
Like the clip-style ipod shuffle, it feels like the organisers of the GCC just didn’t think about the whole population when they were making design decisions, and as a result of this women participants are disadvantaged (at least in terms of their step count, if not in terms of their actual gained benefit). To let the organisers know for next year, I will be emailing a link to this blog post to their follow up email, included on the pedometer box, and I encourage all other participants to do the same.
Nonetheless, I’m looking forward to participating in the challenge, and perhaps learning something about my daily habits (I’m well over the 3,500 average workers make without having done any actual targeted steps, so it is nice to know that I am not as sedentary as the average worker, for example). If only I could figure out where to clip the thing for those two weddings I have to go to…