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By @SimonCocking review of an interesting and thought provoking book which has been shortlisted for the Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award. Available here. Reviewed below.

Data is fundamental to the modern world. From economic development, to healthcare, to education and public policy, we rely on numbers to allocate resources and make crucial decisions. But because so much data fails to take into account gender, because it treats men as the default and women as atypical, bias and discrimination are baked into our systems. And women pay tremendous costs for this bias in time, money, and often with their lives. 

Celebrated feminist advocate Caroline Criado Perez investigates the shocking root cause of gender inequality and research in Invisible Women, diving into women’s lives at home, the workplace, the public square, the doctor’s office, and more. Built on hundreds of studies in the US, the UK, and around the world, and written with energy, wit, and sparkling intelligence, this is a groundbreaking, unforgettable expose that will change the way you look at the world.

Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, reviewed

This is an interesting book because in some ways you read it, nod, agree, and then mentally think, surely everyone knows and recognises the issues that Criado Perez is raising. At which point you then realise that just saying and naming something, is actually a long long way from ensuring that the biases, both literally and metaphorically hardcoded into so many areas of our lives are actually remedied.

The open chapters work well in effectively identifying and evaluating systemic gender bias in many areas of our lives, both obvious and non obvious. Chapter 1 for example is titled ‘Can Snow-Clearing be sexist?’ Which delivers some interesting insights discovered by Swedish snow clearance planners. Similarly Chapter 2 ‘Gender Neutral With Urinals’ raises another series of interesting questions when you dig into it that are still reverberating even now.

At this point you may conclude that you have got the point, and perhaps even wonder what else the book has to say. Across the course of the following chapters Criado Perez then expands on the concept to look at numerous industries when the impact of a male derived template has caused both physical, physiological, and even mental health issues for women. Female symptoms for heart attacks often differ significantly from those for men presenting with the same medical condition. Therefore sometimes heart attacks in women are missed or miss diagnosed due to a lack of sufficient detailed information to differentiate between man and female symptoms.

The issues raised in the book are presented well, and in a thought provoking way. This raises awareness around the importance and urgency for many of our day to day working business, legal, medical and many more models to be revised to better reflect the needs of both genders. Rather the current situation where in many cases women are simply considered to be non-males, as in her example of the bodies used for many anatomy drawings in medical text books, still, several hundred years after Leonardo Da Vinci’s first medical explorations.

This book is a worthy contender for the overall prize and a great choice for the shortlist. 

See more reviews here.

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