The Invisible Women
The Deadly Case of Invisible Women
While men dominate positions of power, and are used as the standard model, invisible women suffer the consequences.
From sexual harassment to the ‘pink tax’, gender bias affects women’s lives in many obvious ways. A new book, Invisible Women, lays bare some surprising examples which you may not have noticed. Using data and graphs, author Caroline Criado Perez shows us the sexism which is hiding in plain sight.
Part of the issue, Criado Perez suggests, is that men’s bodies and experiences are seen as standard. And it’s not just about minor daily inconveniences - like too-big smartphones made for men’s hands, or an office thermostat which was set for men’s warmer metabolisms. Earlier this year, NASA had to scrap plans for the first all-female spacewalk. Why? Because they only had one spacesuit small enough to fit a female astronaut. Despite the fact that they did invent a makeup bag for female astronauts. Yes, because that's what is needed in space.
The world is designed around men
A gender-blind approach doesn’t always work in a world which is designed around men’s needs. Less than a quarter of university professors are female. This is largely because the workload piled on academics is unrealistic for anyone without a supportive partner at home. It’s the same for most high-powered business positions. Anyone with outside responsibilities will struggle to make it to a 7.30am breakfast meeting, or stay til midnight to deal with an unexpected crisis.
This leads to a spiraling effect. The lack of representation means that it’s harder for female staff to push back on unreasonable demands. They fear seeming like they “can’t handle it”. There’s a widely-quoted statistic that when women in a mixed-gender group speak for 20% of the time, men judge the gender division to have been equal. Yet when they talk for 50% of the time, women are judged to have dominated the discussion. This leads to a situation with invisible women.
Don't let the gender gap affect your company. Try our free guide for the Best Practices to Build a Successful Sponsorship Programme.
This failure to take into account women’s needs doesn’t just affect women’s careers: it can be deadly.
A UK survey survey found that 75% of women used protective equipment which was designed for men, leaving them vulnerable to injury. Women are 50% more likely to be seriously injured in a car crash. This is because the usual crash-test dummy is based on the “Standard Man” model (170cm, 70kg). Only in 2011 did car manufacturers start testing with female-shaped dummies.
Women are also under-represented in medical research. A surprising number of common drugs - Valium, for example - have never been properly tested on women. This means women are more likely to suffer side-effects or accidental overdoses from prescription drugs. Invisible women are suffering at the hands of easy-to-fix negligence.
Symptoms of medical conditions often present differently across genders, and women are under-diagnosed with everything from autism to heart failure because they’re more likely to present with atypical symptoms. Of course, these symptoms are only ‘atypical’ because most medical literature is based on men’s experiences.
The gender gap perpetuates the concept of invisible women
Until researchers, leaders and policymakers start taking the gender gap seriously, women will continue to struggle for a place in a man’s world. If their needs are so broadly and blatantly ignored in a practical sense, it is hardly surprising that they continue to be invisible in other ways especially in the workplace.
Our corporate cultures are male coded. Gender stereotyped job titles and job listings are the norm. They discourage women from applying for jobs and reduce their sense of belonging. Male leaders frequently overlook women for stretch assignments. This is usually based purely on biased assumptions about their family situations or career ambitions. They are not invited to participate on panels or at conferences. Women are not mentored or sponsored in the same ways as their male colleagues. In some sectors, they are invisible women because they are not physically there. In others, they are present but unseen.
The absence of women from senior positions in the hierarchy is directly related to their invisibility elsewhere. With women influencing or making 85% of consumer decisions, male leaders need to understand that taking women's needs into account and making a commitment to gender balance should be part of their business model.
A lot of these issues are done unknowingly. Tackle them with our Unconscious Bias Training Workshops.
Found that interesting?
Learn more about our services
Make your dreams a reality with a professional evaluation of your career to date.
The evidence is in. More women in your company can deliver 35% greater financial returns. (Catalyst)
Dates for the Diary
June 28th Coaching and Discussion - Share the load with Dorothy Dalton and Ian Dinwiddy
Download and listen free podcasts
How to Create an Effective USP What is a USP? Our Unique Selling Point or UVP (Unique Value Proposition) is our key core message about where...read more
How to Rethink the Modern Workplace for Gender Equality New research shows that diversity and inclusion is a top priority for leaders. So why...read more
Menopause in the workplace In this podcast with Nicki Williams award winning author, keynote speaker and Founder of Happy Hormones for Life,...read more
How to Cultivate Empathy in the Workplace Nancy Milton, international business communications expert, keynote speaker and author, share some vital...read more
Taking Care of your COW Tanvi Guatam, international Personal Branding expert says there is a misconception out there that a personal brand is...read more
The importance of Hard Talk Dawn Metcalfe, author of Managing the Matrix and Hard Talk, shares with us tips to achieve the lasting communication...read more
When Does Female Rivalry Turn into Sabotage There’s a lot of stuff written on social media about female rivalry and competition between women. Some...read more
Goal setting tips to boost your career The happiest people are those that really love their jobs. Those that don’t, dread Sunday nights and...read more
Sexism: How to stage a Bystander Intervention in the Workplace In this power coaching podcast, we're going to tackle one of the questions...read more
How to Get Noticed by Head Hunters & Recruiters In this power coaching podcast, we're going to tackle one of the questions asked multiple...read more
We can take advantage of this turbulent time and rethink the talent sourcing process to attract and hire more women.read more
Daily gratitude is an important booster. Read why we all need to show more of it.read more
Are you suffering from COVID19 boreout due to mental under-load? The symptoms of boreout are very similar to burnout so it can be difficult to tell them apartread more