Emmanuelle Lipski is a principal at 10D VC, a venture capital and private equity firm. She joined CTech to share a review of “Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men” by Caroline Criado Perez.
Title: “Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men”
Author: Caroline Criado Pérez
Format: Book, Tablet, Audiobook
“Invisible Women” explores the gender data gap and its profound implications for business and society. He begins by uncovering how the world has been designed and structured based on data that predominantly and predominantly represents men, and describes the myth of “male universality” as not malicious or deliberate, but rather the product of ‘a thought that has existed for millennia.
The author then demonstrates how this gender data gap permeates various aspects of our daily lives, from healthcare to transportation, urban planning and business, where she highlights that neglecting half of the population’s needs leads to suboptimal decision-making and missed market opportunities.
Criado Perez makes a compelling argument for businesses to prioritize collecting (and analyzing) gender-responsive data and promoting gender equality – this will not only lead them to contribute to a fairer and more equitable world, but will also allow them to tap into a large and often overlooked market segment, ultimately leading to success and sustainable growth.
In my opinion, the most important passages concerned the consequences of the absence of sex-disaggregated data on several aspects of our daily lives.
This includes examples ranging from the better-known gender pay gap, partly due to the fact that women tend to take on a greater share of unpaid domestic work, and underrepresentation in care positions. leadership, particularly in the political and technological sectors. It also explores this phenomenon down to biased conceptions of everyday objects and activities, such as smartphones less friendly for women’s small hands, voice recognition software not understanding female voices very accurately, office temperatures too cold for most women (since based on a formula that uses the metabolic rate of a 40-year-old man), or the “pink tax”, a phenomenon whereby products marketed to women, such as shampoos, are often more expensive than the same products sold to men.
Sometimes this lack of representation can even have fatal consequences for women, who are 47% more likely to be seriously injured and 17% more likely to die in a car accident (as car crash simulations have been performed with male models) and have a 50.% higher chance of receiving an initial misdiagnosis following a heart attack, as they generally present with different symptoms than men.
From multiple perspectives, Criado Perez advocates for policy changes and data collection reforms to close the gender data gap and lead us toward a more just and equitable future.
What I found strange about the topic of women’s invisibility is that women are not a minority. They are actually the majority. However, as Criado Perez shows, women live in a society built mainly by and for men.
The book made me think differently about the issue of bias in general and the solution space we face:
Liability issue: Although she calls for more data collection and greater involvement of women in decision-making, I wonder if this is enough and where the division of responsibility lies (where does it fall to men, women or two). For example, should we build daycare centers in workplaces to help women return to work or should we advocate for a more equitable distribution of childcare responsibilities? Should we rethink public transportation experiences to make them safer for women or focus on education to combat harassment?
Equality versus equity: I think the book also illustrates well why equality is not the same as fairness. For example, applying the same amount of space to men’s and women’s restrooms doesn’t work since women tend to use them longer on average.
A complex solution space: Ultimately, I believe that a more equal world can only be achieved through changes in infrastructure (yes, more streetlights can help women feel safer at night), but above all through a whole mentality, behavior and policy changes, including more women. representation in positions of influence, activism and advocacy to raise awareness and create a platform for change and ultimately policy change to support more inclusive practices. This book also reinforced my belief in investing in women-led technologies as part of the solutions space.
I think this book has been instrumental in raising awareness of the lack of gender data and sparking important discussions about it. However (as with any work), it presents limitations both in the scope of its analysis due to a certain generalization and simplification of concepts, with a focus on the Western context, as well as on the solution space that he offers. .
On a personal note, I wish Criado Perez had spent more time on “why” given all the data we have on the negative impact of gender bias, we are doing so little to improve things. It’s hard to conclude anything other than that companies don’t particularly care about this issue – which worries me more than the lack of data! I like to think of “invisible women” as an important piece of the complex puzzle of diversity and gender research, public policy, and more.
Who should read this book:
I think everyone should read this book and act as a force for positive change, but it’s a must-read, especially for three types of readers:
Those who work on creating any type of product/service, as I believe they would benefit from important lessons related to the importance of collecting and analyzing disaggregated data to eliminate design bias and create a truly user-centric experience.
Policy makers, to ensure fair and equitable outcomes (leveraging the gender perspective), as this is particularly relevant in the context where AI becomes a central part of future operations.
Those in any type of leadership position, who would benefit from an in-depth analysis of the value of diversity and inclusion in decision-making and fostering innovation.