Invisible Women
Invisible Women

Invisible Women

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Default Male

The generic masculine is also used when referring to groups of people: when the gender is unknown, or if it’s a mixed group the generic masculine is used. So a group of one hundred female teachers in Spanish would be referred to as ‘las profesoras’ – but as soon as you add a single male teacher, the group suddenly becomes ‘los profesores’. Such is the power of the default male. (Location 487)

In 2012, a World Economic Forum analysis found that countries with gender-inflected languages, which have strong ideas of masculine and feminine present in almost every utterance, are the most unequal in terms of gender. (Location 499)

The world’s ‘fastest-growing language’, used by more than 90% of the world’s online population, is emoji. (Location 507)

Tags: emoji, language

we read most things as male unless they are specifically marked as female. (Location 526)

The result of this deeply male-dominated culture is that the male experience, the male perspective, has come to be seen as universal, while the female experience – that of half the global population, after all – is seen as, well, niche. (Location 587)

Tags: female

Note: .female

It should be easier to imagine yourself as a woman than as a blue hedgehog. But on the other hand she’s also wrong, because that blue hedgehog has one particularly important similarity with male players, even more so than species alignment, and that is that Sonic the hedgehog is male. We know this because he isn’t pink, he doesn’t have a bow in his hair, and he doesn’t simper. (Location 635)

Tags: female

Note: .female most characters are male, even when they are not human

The fact is that worth is a matter of opinion, and opinion is informed by culture. And if that culture is as male-biased as ours is, it can’t help but be biased against women. By default. (Location 673)

For him, the way he saw the world was universal, while feminism – seeing the world from a female perspective – was niche. Ideological. (Location 741)

These white men have in common the following opinions: that identity politics is only identity politics when it’s about race or sex; that race and sex have nothing to do with ‘wider’ issues like ‘the economy’; that it is ‘narrow’ to specifically address the concerns of female voters and voters of colour; and that working class means white working-class men. (Location 761)

Because this perspective is not articulated as white and male (because it doesn’t need to be), because it is the norm, it is presumed not to be subjective. It is presumed to be objective. Universal, even. (Location 777)

Invisible Women is the story of what happens when we forget to account for half of humanity. It is an exposé of how the gender data gap harms women when life proceeds, more or less as normal. In urban planning, politics, the workplace. It is also about what happens to women living in a world built on male data when things go wrong. When they get sick. When they lose their home in a flood. When they have to flee that home because of war. (Location 792)

PART I Daily Life

CHAPTER 1 Can Snow-Clearing be Sexist?

CHAPTER 2 Gender Neutral With Urinals

The lack of adequate toilet provision is a public health problem for both sexes (for example, in India, where 60% of the population does not have access to a toilet,9 90% of surface water is contaminated (Location 1115)

Tags: india

Note: .india

A 2016 study found that Indian women who use fields to relieve themselves are twice as likely to face non-partner sexual violence as women with a household toilet. (Location 1144)

Most of the agencies she surveyed had security strategies on their buses: 80% had CCTV; 76% had panic alarms; and 73% had public address systems. But the vast majority neither had, nor intended to install, security measures at bus stops. This is in diametric opposition to what women actually want: they are far more likely to feel scared waiting in the dark at a bus stop than they are to feel scared on the bus itself. And in fact, they are right to feel this way: one study found that people were over three times more likely to be a victim of crime at or near a transit stop than on the vehicle itself. (Location 1302)

Tags: bus

Note: .bus people are more likely to be a victim of crime at bus stops, but they dont have security measures there

three women set up a crowd-mapping platform called Safe-City.83 Women can report the location, date and time they were harassed, as well as what happened, ‘so that others can view “hot spots” of such incidents on a map’. The data collected so far is revealing: groping is the most common type of harassment – ahead even of catcalls – and it is most likely to happen on public buses (likely because of overcrowding). (Location 1341)

It turned out that single large open spaces were the problem, because these forced girls to compete with the boys for space. And girls didn’t have the confidence to compete with the boys (that’s social conditioning for you) so they tended to just let the boys have the space. But when they subdivided the parks into smaller areas, the female drop-off was reversed. ... And like the grassy spaces, they also subdivided the sports courts. Formal sports like basketball were still provided for, but there was also now space for more informal activities – which girls are more likely to engage in. (Location 1367)

When planners fail to account for gender, public spaces become male spaces by default. (Location 1400)

Tags: female, male

Note: .male .female

By accounting for women’s care responsibilities in urban planning, we make it easier for women to engage fully in the paid workforce – and as we will see in the next chapter, this is a significant driver of GDP. By accounting for the sexual violence women face and introducing preventative measures – like providing enough single-sex public toilets – we save money in the long run by reducing the significant economic cost of violence against women. When we account for female socialisation in the design of our open spaces and public activities, we again save money in the long run by ensuring women’s long-term mental and physical health. (Location 1404)

PART II The Workplace

CHAPTER 3 The Long Friday

There is no such thing as a woman who doesn’t work. There is only a woman who isn’t paid for her work. (Location 1433)

Tags: female

Note: .female

Globally, 75% of unpaid work is done by women,7 who spend between three and six hours per day on it compared to men’s average of thirty minutes to two hours. (Location 1434)

In the UK, 42% of women compared to 11% of men work part-time, and women make up 75% of part-time workers.40 And part-time work is paid less per hour than full-time work – in part because it’s rare that a high-level post is offered as a job-share or with flexible working hours. (Location 1529)

Tags: female

Note: .female

In Germany a woman who has given birth to one child can expect to earn up to $285,000 less by the time she’s forty-five than a woman who has worked full-time without interruption. (Location 1550)

Tags: paygap

Note: .paygap

Things are worse for women in the US, which is one of only four countries in the world that doesn’t guarantee at least some paid maternity leave.76 The Family and Medical Leave Act guarantees twelve weeks of unpaid leave – but, amongst other restrictions you are eligible only if you have worked for a business with at least 50 other employees for the past twelve months.77 As a result, even unpaid leave is only available to 60% of the workforce.78 There is nothing to prevent the remaining 40% of US women being fired. And of course the number of women who can afford to take unpaid leave is lower: one in four American mothers return to work within two weeks of giving birth. (Location 1629)

US universities provide another example of how gender-blind leave policies can end up discriminating against women. US academics in the tenure-track system have seven years to receive tenure after getting their first academic job or they’re fired. This system is biased against women – especially women who want to have children, in part because the years between completing a PhD and receiving tenure (thirty to forty) coincide with the years these women are most likely to try for a baby.87 The result? Married mothers with young children are 35% less likely than married fathers of young children to get tenure-track jobs,88 and among tenured faculty 70% of men are married with children compared to 44% of women. (Location 1654)

Nate Silver found that in the US, the hourly wage for those working fifty hours or more – 70% of whom are men – has risen twice as fast since 1984 as hourly pay for those working a more typical thirty-five to forty-nine hours per week.115 And this invisible male bias is exacerbated in certain countries by tax systems that exempt overtime hours from tax116 – a bonus for being unencumbered117 that contrasts sharply with the tax relief on domestic services being trialled in Sweden. (Location 1733)

CHAPTER 4 The Myth of Meritocracy

The simple step of installing a screen turned the audition process for the New York Philharmonic into a meritocracy. (Location 1815)

Recalling her own student experience, she explained how she ‘fell in love’ with programming when she took her first course in college. But she didn’t stay up all night, or even spend a majority of her time programming. ‘Staying up all night doing something is a sign of single-mindedness and possibly immaturity as well as love for the subject. The girls may show their love for computers and computer science very differently. If you are looking for this type of obsessive behavior, then you are looking for a typically young, male behavior. (Location 2018)

When a European company advertised for a technical position using a stock photo of a man alongside copy that emphasised ‘aggressiveness and competitiveness’ only 5% of the applicants were women. When they changed the ad to a stock photo of a woman and focused the text on enthusiasm and innovation, the number of women applying shot up to 40%. (Location 2110)

CHAPTER 5 The Henry Higgins Effect

The result is that levels of radiation that are safe for Reference Man turn out to be anything but for women.19 Ditto for a whole range of commonly used chemicals.20 And yet the male-default one-level-to-rule-them-all approach persists. (Location 2204)

‘Size small is a) a rarity, b) men’s small only.’ This ‘unisex approach’ to PPE can lead to ‘significant problems’, cautions the TUC. Differences in chests, hips and thighs can affect the way the straps fit on safety harnesses. The use of a ‘standard’ US male face shape for dust, hazard and eye masks means they don’t fit most women (as well as a lot of black and minority ethnic men). (Location 2358)

CHAPTER 6 Being Worth Less Than a Shoe


CHAPTER 7 The Plough Hypothesis