Feminist activist Caroline Criado Perez, who first came to public attention by campaigning for a woman to appear on the £10 note, has written a call to arms exposing the gender data gap—the way that women are ignored or downplayed by researchers in a whole range of fields. Criado Perez writes that for too long, “the lives of men have been taken to represent those of humans overall,” and that “when it comes to the other half of humanity, there is often nothing but silence.” Now, she argues, “it’s time for women to be seen.”
Impressively collating vast amounts of research, Criado Perez proves how the data gap affects all areas of women’s lives. At best, it leaves women poorly represented in films and popular culture. At worst, a lack of data about women’s bodies in medical science and engineering is causing unnecessary deaths.
Criado Perez demonstrates how the gap is both a cause and a consequence of women’s inequality, with a focus on unpaid work and violence against women and girls. The result of this refusal to “see” women means that everything from safety belts in cars to the recognised symptoms of cardiac arrest are designed—without us even realising—to prioritise men’s experiences as the default.
The chapters on medical science contain the most shocking insights: missed opportunities to create drug treatments that work for women; women’s symptoms for life-threatening diseases being treated as “atypical” and ignored. Persuasively, Criado Perez links this lack of focus on women’s bodies to the wider invisibility of women in society and culture.
With so much information to impart, there are moments when the writing style can become opaque and even clunky. It would also have been good to see more analysis on why the gender data gap exists in the first place. However, that is not to detract from an impeccably researched, determined and passionate demand for change.
Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez is published by Chatto & Windus (£16.99)