Footnotes: Invisible Women by Caroline Criado-Perez

After a season of women being poorly represented at award ceremonies - epitomised by Tuesday's Brit Awards - we pick up Invisible Women, Caroline Criado-Perez's prejudice-skewering book that exposes 'data bias in a world designed for men' 

Billie Eilish
Billie Eilish accepts her Brit Award. Getty Images

What's the book?

Despite what certain politicians, sniffy newspaper columnists, or mansplaining Twitter bores may feel obligated to tell you, women still do not have equality in modern society. And they won’t until at least 2030, according to the Equal Measures 2030 partnership. If you’re a woman, this is unlikely to surprise you. If you’re a man, less so. But either way, we should all read Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, Caroline Criado-Perez’s prejudice-skewering analysis of the facts that fall between the cracks when we talk about gender.

In 2017, a large survey revealed that more than two thirds of men in Britain believe that women now enjoy equal opportunities. But, as most women are well-aware, they are paid less, do far more unpaid labour at home, queue longer for the loos, and are far more likely to be victims of domestic violence.

Nor will it shock many women to hear that the average smartphone (5.5 inches long) is too big for most women’s hands, and often doesn’t fit in their pockets. What about the fact that Google’s speech-recognition software, trained on male voices, is 70 percent more likely to understand men? Or that women are nearly 50 percent more likely to be seriously hurt in a car crash because cars are designed around the body of ‘Reference Man’.

These are merely a mouthful of the seemingly endless nuggets that Criado Perez serves up in this horizon-expanding book.

Why talk about it now?

Last night, The Brits became the latest major award show to come under fire for a lack of female representation among the nominees. In the four categories open to male and female artists, just four of the 25 available slots were given to women.

‘Hopefully next year we’ll see some more women in this category,’ said Foals frontman Yannis Philippakis during the band’s acceptance speech after winning Best Live Act. The Oscars, the Baftas and the Golden Globes have all been accused of ‘gender washing’ this season, stoking concerns that female talent is being systematically overlooked by the showbiz elite, and across society more widely. Never has it felt more urgent to talk about diversity.


Invisible Women had such an impact on the conversation around gender, it won Criado-Perez – who holds an OBE and successfully pushed for Jane Austen to be featured on the UK’s £10 note in 2017 — the prestigious Royal Society science prize in September. As one judge noted: 'This important and vital book is only the beginning of the conversations we need to be having about how to make sure modern life works properly for everyone, no matter who they are.' 

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