Caroline Criado Perez covers extensive ground in Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men. Because the world offers her illustrations galore of how we exclude women from data. Then she turns around and explains what this means in everyday women’s lives. This is part feminist exposé, part social history, and part science journalism. If you believe the patriarchy is systemic, here’s all the ammunition you need to prove it in your next argument with a non-believer. 

Criado Perez covers cars that don’t fit, farm tools built wrong, and medical studies done only on men. She shows how lethal it is when doctors ignore women’s medical concerns. This bias also affects all kinds of caregiving, from universal (or not) childcare to elder care. And it includes all the years of caring in between. 

Even translation apps go wrong when they don’t account for the way languages gender words. And all kinds of women suffer bias based on excluded gender data in their careers. Criado Perez discusses the impact on female professors track towards tenure. She exposes wage differentials, as well as the way political candidates at all levels must overcome systemic bias based on incomplete data. 

On top of this, Criado Perez discusses the way faulty data creates bias in policing. This is especially important in cases related to violence against women. If this doesn’t make you mad enough, read her chapters on gendered data in refugee and disaster relief.

There are more examples, but this should be enough to offer you a window into this book’s scope.

My conclusions

Oh, the patriarchy. It is everywhere and it touches every part of women’s lives. If I didn’t believe it before, I do know. Thanks to Criado Perez and her extensive research and analysis.

It all comes down to one fundamental principle. Anywhere there was or is inquiry or the gathering of knowledge, women are excluded or diminished. The historical precedent is strong. Fighting the ingrained bias is going to take all of us understanding the reality. This book is a good place to start, and Criado Perez plans a second volume for 2022. Sound like it has more of a blueprint for resistance.

On a side note: I didn’t love the audiobook narration by the author. While she certainly knows her material, it has lecturing overtones that make it hard to soak up all the details.

Invisible Women is alternately maddening and depressing. It gathers a tremendous variety of detailed information. Be ready to absorb as you read! I recommend this for every feminist reader.

Pair with The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom for the disaster relief connection. Or try Rebecca Traister’s amazing Big Girls Don’t Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women.  Another option is Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick by Maya Dusenberry.