Caroline Perez (2019), Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, Chatto & Windus, London, pp. 411
As we celebrate the international women’s history month in March every year, there is no better way to gain perspective than grab a copy of this well-researched and witty book that fiercely lays bare the gender-shaped hole in human history. Caroline Perez, a writer, broadcaster, and an award-winning feminist campaigner, brings her excellent research acumen and flair for debate to illuminate how the human society has been designed to suit the default setting called male. As a result, the female gender has always had to either unfairly adjust to the setting that did not take into consideration its existence or vociferously demand change often inviting the wrath of everyone. Using mundane everyday inconveniences such as phones that are too big for their hands or city planning that was oblivious to their existence, to systematic structural inequalities such as assumptions of merit and skills at workplace that affect their progress and well-being, the author argues how women had to contend in a world designed for men.
Divided into six parts and sixteen chapters, the book delves into specific examples spanning the private lives to the public where the female is made invisible and its implications for everyone. Perez uses different types of data such as statistics to case studies, quantitative inferences to in-depth interviews to make her point. What makes her job extremely challenging and the reader’s experience exceptionally rewarding is that she succeeds in showing us the absences. Demonstrating care and domestic work, she unpacks the working of millions of women working invisibly and silently to keep the visible acts of male achievement alive. She also pulls up female achievement which has for centuries masqueraded as male genius, unearthing artists, scientists, doctors, engineers, thinkers, creators, and dreamers who contributed something original to humanity. She then discusses how can we build a future that is gender acknowledging.
Anyone who believes in an equal human society must read this work. So should individuals who are design thinkers and want to make a difference. So should young students and experienced researchers. This book indicates where we have been blind-sided and how to go about correcting ourselves. This work speaks of our unfair and unequal self-fulfilling psychological prophecies that have systematically failed to acknowledge girls and women as creative, constructive and capable human beings. My hope is that through works such as these, we have the persistence to also unearth other gender-shaped absences that have languished in the dark shadows of history.