Book Review - Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed For Men by Caroline Criado Perez

By now, most people around me acknowledge the fact that there still is a massive gender bias in many environments. This is has been especially visible in the media in the past few years, when the glass ceiling or the pay gap in jobs in most sectors, but also the harassment and abuse that came to light during the efforts of the #MetToo-movement have been highly discussed, debated and broadcasted. 

Unfortunately, however, many people do not fully appreciate this phenomenon and still think that these are single instances, without being aware of how deeply rooted these biases and inequities are in societies all over the globe. I won’t lie, I was among those non-believers, before reading Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed For Men. 

The author Caroline Criado Perez wrote the book at the beginning of 2019 but, do not worry, it is still available on the shelves of numerous libraries; you might have seen it advertised online on Amazon or in the window of your local bookstore because even a year after publishing there is still a huge hype around the book – and rightly so

Perez uncovers various areas that show bias against women, which you would’ve never even thought of. She clearly shows that the living situation for women worldwide needs improvement and that this can only be changed if this data gap is closed. 

 

But what does ‘data gap’ exactly mean? 

 

‘Data gap’ is the lack of sex or gender-specific research, provoking a lack of data on women in very numerous fields. You might be as shocked as I was in finding out, that this gap starts from the simplest things, such as the safety of cars, among others. Often cars are only tested on crash test dummies that resemble the standard male body. Drugs are often only tested on male test subjects and protection gear for workplaces is often only designed for male sized bodies. These examples are clear representations of a deep and systematic that is hardly ever spoken about. 

Personally, the most worrying finding in Perez’s book is the fact that women are often misdiagnosed and often not correctly treated in comparison with men. This results in women being sent home from hospitals because they were just being hysterical or to female heart attacks going undiagnosed which leads to countless women’s deaths. 

This (shockingly) occurs also in typically female domains, such as childbirth, there is not enough data to help women to get the right treatments and drugs. According to the author, this is due to the lack of funding for medical tests which is, once again, often a male-dominant domain. Thus, this underfunding is due to the generally male-dominated funding in panels and debates. 

Particularly, in times of global crisis like now, it is vital to educate people about these issues: obtaining data about both sexes, can change and decrease health risks for women. 

Also, a further shocking revelation in the book was the realisation that most of the products we use daily are hardly ever designed for females. When designing products, females are often simply considered to be smaller versions of males’ ones, without taking into account a female perspective, bodies and needs. This, as mentioned, affects women health and services. 

 

This systematic gender-bias research still occurs. This is the case for car seats, where often no data on how a crash would affect a female body is presented, suggesting that there is not certain data that can certainly affirm that cars are unsafe for women. Shockingly, the same goes for many other products, such as the test on how much of certain chemicals are safe to be around or how much weight it is safe to lift. 

 

Hence, this means that there is simply not enough data available to inform women about products, services and tools. As I woman, I was shaken by all the ways females around the world are still disadvantaged. It is daunting to realize that we might be misdiagnosed when were ill or receive the wrong treatment.

 

To answer the problem Perez fittingly asked “Why can’t women be more like a man? Well, apologies on behalf of the female sex for being so mysterious, but no, we aren’t and no we can’t.” 

Using this quote to come back to the title of this article, why is it so important to know about this data gap? Because simply put, it can save lives. Arguments about who deserves how much pay are luckily omnipresent already, but when it comes to so many other inequalities discovered by Perez, there is simply no awareness about it yet. This is why I strongly encourage people to educate themselves about this data gap and to spread the word. 

Women all over the world deserve this gap to be closed to create a safe environment for them in every possible situation. 

 

THIS IS NOT AN ADVERTISEMENT but if you want to read about more examples of how the data gap affects women, get your copy online or in your local boo