As we celebrate International Women’s Day this year, it’s an opportunity to reflect on the gender disparities and gender bias that continue to affect women worldwide. But it’s also a day to celebrate women’s achievements. This year’s theme ‘inspire inclusion ‘.is a sad reminder that there is still much to be done when it comes to gender equality.

There’s a book I particularly like, which brings facts to the conversation of gender inequality and highlights the realities of gender bias called “Invisible Women” by Caroline Criado Perez. In her groundbreaking work, Perez unveils the myriad ways in which women are systematically marginalised and overlooked in various aspects of life due to gender bias. But good news, since she wrote her book, things have improved too!

The invisible gender on International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. However, it’s also an opportunity to highlight the ongoing struggles women face worldwide due to gender bias.

Perez’s book opens our eyes to a stark reality – women are often invisible in data, design, and decision-making processes. Despite comprising half of the world’s population, women are consistently underrepresented in research studies, policy development, and product design. As a result, countless aspects of our society cater to a male-centric perspective, leaving women at a disadvantage.

Achieving gender equality with balanced data collection international womens day

Real life examples of bias

Imagine a world where your phone is too big for your hands, where your doctor prescribes the wrong drug for you because there is a lack of understanding and testing into how men and women differ in their responses and outcomes to some drugs.

Consider that in car accident women are 47% more likely to be seriously injured than men, simply because historical testing of seatbelts, was based on the male physic.

Back in 2016 Google’s voice recognition was 70% more likely to understand a man’s voice than a women’s. However, it’s good to see that this has improved, and is now 13% more accurate for men than it is for women.

Voice recognition bias

We are now emersed in a digital world, which means we need to fill the data gap, so its balanced. Take the earlier example around speech recognition technology; it’s trained on a large database of voice recordings called corpora. Voice corpora have a male bias database, which have been used to create male-biased algorithms. These are algorithms we use and experience every day, particularly if you are regular user of ‘Alexa’, Google, or Siri. But with AI they are learning, and improving every day.

The challenge is to move the dial to being fully inclusive when it comes to product design, technology design, and algorithms too.

Achieving gender equality with balanced data collection

One of the central arguments in “Invisible Women” is the bias that exists in data collection. Perez illustrates how data is often gathered in a way that reflects traditional gender roles, which fails to capture the full spectrum of women’s experiences. This gender data gap can have profound consequences in areas such as healthcare, where women’s symptoms and treatment needs may be overlooked, or in transportation planning, where women’s travel patterns may be ignored.

International Women’s Day underscores the importance of balanced data collection to accurately reflect the experiences and needs of both men and women. Achieving gender equality requires a comprehensive understanding of the diverse realities faced by individuals of ALL genders.

By collecting and analysing data through a gender-sensitive lens, policymakers, researchers, and organisations can uncover previously unseen disparities and develop targeted interventions to address them. Balanced data collection ensures that decision-making processes are informed by evidence that represents the full spectrum of human experiences, leading to more equitable outcomes for everyone. Inclusive data practices that empower women, promote gender equality, and pave the way for a more just and equitable society is what’s needed, consistently.

Gender diversity in higher performing businesses

There is an undeniable correlation between women’s participation in business and enhanced organisational performance. Studies consistently show that companies with greater gender diversity at all levels, including leadership positions, tend to outperform their less diverse counterparts.

Research carried out by Harvard Business Review hights three key challenges faced by high performing women mid-career which presented barriers to career progression

  1. Unfair assumption
  2. Unhelpful attention
  3. Unequal access

By recognising and valuing the contributions of women in the workforce, businesses can tap into a broader talent pool, foster innovation, and gain a competitive edge. International Women’s Day provides an opportunity for businesses to reevaluate their practices, promote gender equality and inclusion in the workplace, and harness the full potential of their female employees. Embracing diversity and inclusion not only aligns with ethical imperatives but also yields tangible benefits for business growth and success.

inclusion on International womens day 2024

Consideration as we strive towards inclusion and removing bias

Healthcare disparities

Perez highlights the alarming gender disparities in healthcare, driven by a lack of research into women’s health issues. From heart disease to medication dosages, the medical field has often operated on the assumption that the male body is the default, leading to misdiagnoses and inadequate treatment for women.

Transportation and urban planning

In urban planning and transportation, “Invisible Women” exposes how public spaces and transportation systems are designed with men in mind. Women’s safety and comfort often takes a backseat, resulting in poorly lit streets, inadequate public toilets, and limited access to public transport. This can leave women feeling vulnerable and restricted in their mobility.

It’s a good reminder that gender-inclusive town planning and transportation systems are essential for women’s empowerment. But rather than prioritising women’s needs, we need to create cities that are safe and accessible for all.

Economic inequality

Economic inequality is a global issue, and the gender pay gap remains an ongoing issue for women across the world. The gender pay gap is another dimension of inequality that Perez addresses in her book. Women’s work, both paid and unpaid, is often undervalued.

Discrimination and biases persist in hiring and promotion practices, preventing women from achieving economic parity with their male counterparts. Achieving economic parity for women is about fairness and imbedding real equality in the workplace.

Advocating for change

International Women’s Day could be seen as trying to create a bias towards women, but it’s about advocating change that removes bias. In some areas of society this is about demanding better representation, and as mentioned earlier the importance of unbiased data collection, incorporating gender perspectives in research, policymaking, and design to ensure that women’s needs are not overlooked and are balanced with men’s. By acknowledging the diverse needs and experiences of women, we can create a more equitable world.

We must advocate for gender-inclusive data collection and analysis, recognising that a lack of comprehensive gender balanced data perpetuates inequality in healthcare, education, and economic opportunities.

Celebrate and inspire inclusion

International Women’s Day serves as a catalyst for positive change, creating opportunities for advocacy, empowerment, and inclusion. It also provides a platform for women to amplify their voices, share their stories, and demand inclusion and equality.

Through events, and campaigns organised for International Women’s Day, women from diverse backgrounds come together to celebrate their achievements and inspire one another. International Women’s Day fosters collaboration between individuals, organisations, and governments to address gender inequalities and implement policies that promote women’s rights. It encourages reflection on the progress made and the work that still lies ahead, motivating everyone to take tangible actions towards gender equality. Ultimately, International Women’s Day serves as a reminder of the collective strength and resilience of women worldwide, driving momentum for lasting change.