Imagine a world where your phone is too big for your hand, where your doctor prescribes a drug that is wrong for your body, where in a car accident you are 47% more likely to be seriously injured, where every week the countless hours of work you do are not recognised or valued. If any of this sounds familiar, chances are that you’re a woman. Invisible Women shows us how, in a world largely built for and by men, we are systematically ignoring half the population. It exposes the gender data gap – a gap in our knowledge that is at the root of perpetual, systemic discrimination against women, and that has created a pervasive but invisible bias with a profound effect on women’s lives.
Invisible Women is one of those books that simultaneously super interesting but also super frustrating. I love how with all its stats from countries around the world and its in-depth look at different industries and situations, it puts words to the ideas or feelings I had about life as a woman in the world. There’s the stock phrases like “representation matters” but Invisible Women goes more in-depth than just the idea of “seeing is believing”.
I liked how it goes into the biological differences between men and women and how things like mobile phones getting increasingly larger is fine for men to use one-handed but it’s more difficult for women as the phones are designed with men’s hands in mind and they are usually larger than women’s hands. It’s easy to think that anything men can do, women can do but that’s not the case when the equipment they need to use to do X thing aren’t designed for a woman’s body. I know I’m guilty of thinking that I “can be just as good as a man” when it comes to different things if we have the same time or training, but Invisible Women showed how so much “standard” equipment like PPE, high-vis jackets, and stab vests are designed for a man’s physique aka someone without breasts and perhaps narrower hips and a larger face, which means they are more uncomfortable for women or even don’t work as they should as they’re not designed for their body shape. It’s really enlightening and though as Invisible Women shows there’s still a lot of data missing, it’s ridiculous that what data there is has yet to cause any changes in various industries. Though as the book progresses and shows how the majority of decision makers, whether in government or industry, are men it’s maybe not a such a surprise that women’s needs aren’t seen as such a priority.
This isn’t a men vs women thing though because Invisible Women gives multiple examples of when women are involved in the discussions, the solution to whatever issue is often to the benefit to the entire community – men and women. It shows how more investment in things like education benefits the whole student body and over time, that can only have better results for the country in general.
Invisible Women does a great job of exploring different aspects of life and society and how things are unequal and how it wasn’t made that way with malicious intent. It’s just the presumption that men are the default and what they do, is what everyone does. The stuff about “unpaid work” which is often done by women and means any and all care responsibilities, is a thread throughout the book as there’s many other aspects discussed that has a knock-on effect to this work. Whether that’s caring for their own children, or caring for relatives that could be older and/or disabled, this responsibility takes up far more of a woman’s time than a man and that means their day is structured differently. They may not travel on public transport during rush hour because they don’t have a 9-5 job, instead they’re taking kids to school, then doing part-time work, then checking in on a parent with dementia. However, the majority of travel and public transport data is based on how it’s used during the typical commuter times, thus missing out a huge amount of data of how the services are used.
As Invisible Women was researched and written before the COVID pandemic – it was published in 2019 – I’d be fascinated to know if/how some of the data has changed now hybrid working and fulltime remote work, is more common place now. Though obviously the data would need to be collected in the first place, and with a gender split, which as Invisible Women shows doesn’t often happen. Did women’s lives get easier when both parents were at home all the time so could more equally share care responsibilities? Or did it become even more unequal?
Invisible Women is a really interesting book that’s written in a matter of fact and easy to understand way. There are also moments where the authors dry wit comes through too as some situations caused by lack of data are so absurd that you cant help but poke fun of it. Some of the data and information shared in Invisible Women is very much of the kind where if you didn’t laugh, you’d cry.
I’d recommend Invisible Women to anyone who’s interested in how the world/society is the way it is and the exact reasoning behind some of those things where we feel things are unfair but don’t quite understand how or why. It puts into words things I’d seen or experienced but had previously been unable to quantify and it’s definitely an important read for anyone interested in the inequalities between the sexes and how things could possibly change in various parts of society. 5/5.
It’s important to read books like these to get the language and examples that you need to express the problems that you see. With language, we can explain what the inequities are and try to address them. I enjoyed your review.
Thank you. Yeah that’s exactly it, having the right language is so important to make yourself and the people we talk to understand what we really mean.