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Littler Books cover of Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men Summary

Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men Summary, Notes, and Quotes

Caroline Criado Pérez

3 minutes to read
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Invisible Women: One Sentence Summary

An empowering look at how women have been systematically ignored in data and design, and what can be done to create a more equal world.

Invisible Women: Bullet Point Summary, Notes, and Quotes

  1. We live in a world designed for men. We are conditioned to see men as the default gender and ignore women's experiences.
  2. The gender data gap refers to how data often centers on male experiences and overlooks female needs.
  3. "One of the most important things to say about the gender data gap is that it is not generally malicious, or even deliberate. Quite the opposite. It is simply the product of a way of thinking that has been around for millennia and is therefore a kind of not thinking. A double not thinking, even: men go without saying, and women don't get said at all. Because when we say human, on the whole, we mean man."
  4. The bias against women goes back to ancient philosophers like Aristotle, who saw women as aberrations from the male norm. In anatomy, the male body was long considered the default, with female organs named centuries after their male counterparts.
  5. Even now, representation across society skews male.
    1. In the UK, there are more statues of men named John than of all non-royal women combined.
    2. A study found grammar textbooks reference men three times as often as women.
  6. Women's needs are often neglected in government and corporate policies.
    1. In many areas, the transportation system is optimized for commuter travelers that work full-time (historically male-dominated) while non-commuter travelers (more female) are penalized.
    2. Facebook did not have priority parking for pregnant women until it hired a woman CEO who became pregnant.
  7. The gender data gap harms women's safety on public transit. Women face frequent harassment but rarely report it, due to unclear procedures, social taboo, or fear of retaliation. With no accurate data showing women's greater vulnerability, transit systems don't implement protections.
  8. Men and women often have the same amount of restroom space, this universal design decision is a result of inadequate data from women, and it creates much longer restroom lines for women.
    1. Women do more in the restrooms than men (change tampons, makeup, take care of children, etc.), and thus need more time and facilities.
    2. Men's urinals allow the space to serve more people.
  9. In developing countries, the impact of unavailable restrooms for women is far more serious, as women without private toilets rely on public facilities. With no private toilet access, women face health issues and sexual violence from using unsafe public restrooms.
  10. There are disproportionately fewer renowned world-class female pianists because the piano is designed to fit male handspans. Women's smaller average handspan cannot easily span a standard keyboard octave.
  11. Smartphones are designed to fit the male hand. This has led to more musculoskeletal problems for female smartphone users.
  12. Office temperature standards from the 1960s were chosen to suit men's metabolic rate.
  13. Cars are designed to be safe for the average male. Crash test dummies are mostly modeled based on average male height, weight and proportions, though women have higher injury rates in crashes.
    1. The European Union required crash-test dummies that are based on the "fiftieth percentile male".
  14. Research shows women are more affected by radiation than men. This has serious implications when science uses a man as the standard.
  15. In medical textbooks men are depicted three times more than women.
  16. Women are underrepresented in medical trials.
    1. In trials of occlusion devices, women were only 18% of participants.
    2. The CRT-D pacemaker was originally tested on just 20% women. FDA review found its data inaccurate and harmful for women.
  17. Modern governments often cut taxes on top earners to spur growth, but with men outearning women globally by 38%, these tax cuts are most beneficial for men. Not analyzing taxation for gender impact passes policies that discriminate against women.
  18. Unpaid domestic and care work, largely done by women, is excluded from GDP (gross domestic product), the standard measure of value added. Factoring it in would increase countries' GDP significantly. In the US, unpaid work equals up to 20% of GDP.
    1. Women do 75% of the world's unpaid work.
    2. Not including unpaid work in GDP is essentially implying women don't add value.
  19. "There is no such thing as a woman who doesn't work. There is only a woman who isn't paid for her work."
  20. Unpaid care work is a main barrier for women working. Better policy supporting social infrastructure like childcare could enable women's employment and grow GDP significantly, but this requires recognizing unpaid work through better data.
  21. Workplace culture often assumes an "unencumbered" worker -- someone without domestic duties, but with women doing most unpaid care, they're more "encumbered." Needing schedule flexibility or avoiding overtime disadvantages women in workplaces favoring the unencumbered.
    1. More workplaces should install daycare centers to combat employment gender disparity.
  22. Powerful positions (politicians, CEOs, etc.) that make important decisions that affect a large number of people are mostly held by men.
    1. Male leaders are far less likely to address gender issues than female leaders.
    2. "It's not always easy to convince someone a need exists, if they don't have that need themselves."
    3. In 2017, only 23.5% of the politicians in the world were women.
    4. Research shows that women in male-dominated spaces are judged more negatively for the same thing that a man says.
    5. A 2016 report states that 66% of female politicians received misogynistic abuse.
    6. An Australian study reported 80% of women would not run for office because of fear of harassment.
  23. Female refugees face a unique challenge, enduring widespread sexual violence from male figures of authority. This violence stems from institutions operating on a male-as-default mindset, designing facilities and hiring male authorities without addressing gender-specific concerns.

Invisible Women: Resources