This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Invisible Women" by Caroline Criado Perez. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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What does economic gender inequality look like? What are women’s economic disadvantages?
Caroline Criado Perez asserts that the gender data gap harms women’s economic standing. This is a failure that results in discriminatory systems that harm women’s finances.
Read more to learn how the gender data gap results in workplaces that don’t consider women’s needs.
Economic Gender Inequality Examples
In Invisible Women, Perez specifically contends that due to our male-as-default mindset, we collect data on people and assume that it represents the average life experience. However, women have gender-specific concerns. By not collecting and using sex-disaggregated data (data that is separated by sex) we create economic gender inequality.
(Shortform note: Experts suggest that if we did collect and use sex-disaggregated data, we could create systems that not only don’t discriminate against women but also actively improve their standing in society. These experts divide governmental policies into categories ranging from “gender-unaware,” which don’t acknowledge how decisions affect each gender differently, to “gender-transformative,” which seek to combat discriminatory practices against women so they become more equal to men. For example, a gender-transformative policy might try to reduce women’s care responsibilities.)
1. Women Are Effected at the Governmental Level
Perez points to how modern governments that don’t gender-analyze their budgets spend and save money. These governments often try to foster economic growth by cutting taxes on their highest earners. However, almost every country has a gender pay gap. Globally, men earn nearly 38% more than women. Since high earners are more likely to be men, these tax cuts are more likely to benefit men—not women. Therefore Perez argues that by not gender-analyzing their taxation systems, modern governments pass tax policies that contribute to economic gender inequality.
Moreover, Perez argues that when these governments need to save money, their failure to consider how policy changes might impact men and women differently results in policies that disproportionately disadvantage women—and thus discriminate against them. Notably, governments often try to save money by closing public services—a move that, according to Perez, disproportionately affects women.
Why is this so? The public services the government closes often provide care work: After the 2008 financial crisis, the UK cut funding for nearly 300 children’s centers. But even if the government doesn’t provide this care, someone still has to—and usually, that burden is passed onto women, who do 75% of the world’s unpaid care work. However, as Perez notes, doing unpaid labor takes time away from a woman’s ability to do paid labor—and therefore, the closure of these public services often causes women to lose potential income.
In this way, the government’s failure to review sex-disaggregated data—in other words, a gender data gap caused by a male-as-default mindset—results in the creation of budgets and taxation systems that ultimately harm women’s economic standing.
2. Women Are Affected in the Workplace
Perez explains that most business leaders are men who operate on a male-as-default mindset: They assume that if something works for them, it must also work for women. This mindset stems from the reality that these men don’t have the life experience of women. That gap in experience is a form of a gender data gap. Because they’re not women, they don’t have the data regarding what women might need. As a result, these men create workplace cultures that don’t take women’s needs into account simply because women’s needs don’t occur to them.
To illustrate, Perez points to the standard modern workplace culture, which she argues is designed for unencumbered workers. These are people who can focus solely on work because they’re not responsible for domestic work or care. As she points out, the standard modern worker has fixed hours (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.). The longer you stay, the more productive you’re considered, and sudden shifts to your schedule are frowned upon. Perez asserts that as a result, standard modern workplaces disproportionately disadvantage women.
Since most of the world’s unpaid care is done by women, women are more likely to be encumbered—and thus can’t succeed as well as men in a culture designed for the unencumbered. If a child gets sick, his mother might need to suddenly shift her work schedule. But this damages her standing at work. And if a company’s policy is to distribute raises based on how much overtime someone works, this policy disadvantages women—who are more likely to need to go home at exactly 5 p.m. to cook dinner for their families.
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Here's what you'll find in our full Invisible Women summary :
- How society's male-as-default mindset leads to a gender data gap
- Why cars don't properly protect women during accidents
- Why we don’t know how most medicines affect women