A Chair of One’s Own

Monica Förster designs a svelte task chair custom-made for women’s unique sitting habits.

Women may soon surpass men on the nation’s payrolls, but they’ll still be sitting in office chairs designed for their male counterparts. According to recent ergonomic studies, men and women have radically different sitting habits—men tend to slouch against their backrests, while women lean forward or sit perched on the front of their seats, increasing their risk for back pain. “A lot of men lean backward and sort of stretch out when their backs feel tired,” Monica Förster says. “But I don’t think women feel so comfortable doing that.” To provide them with proper back relief, the Swedish designer has created the first task chair exclusively tailored to women.

Called Lei (“Her,” in Italian), Förster’s design features an innovative back cushion that moves backward and forward to support the lumbar region as the user shifts in her seat. And it is sized to a woman’s proportions: the overall dimensions are smaller than the typical male-centered model, and the arms extend from the back, rather than the sides, to allow more room for shapely hips. Ellen Wheatley, the ergonomist who oversaw the research, sees Lei as one more step toward achieving gender parity. “We will never have an equal society until we acknowledge the differences,” she says. “We’re saying that females should have the same right to sit comfortably as males.” Here Förster discusses her design for the anything-but-second sex, available through the Swed­ish manufacturer Officeline (www.officeline.se).

Click the images for Förster’s comments on her design.

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