Penelope Rance

My UX research & design ramblings

Book Review - Invisible Women

This book made me angry. As I said in my newsletter, this is not a book about research so much as about what happens when you are not inclusive in your research.

Photo of book on table
Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez

International Women’s Day this year is focused on #BreakTheBias and if you do nothing else to celebrate, reading Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez will show you what a massive bias it is that we need to break.

Small things like shoveling snow, for instance. Karlskoga in Sweden focused all their efforts on plowing the main roads when it snowed with footpaths being last on the list. But when they revisited this priority listing they realised that it was better to start with the footpaths. Women are less likely to drive, walking or taking public transport to go about their daily lives (taking children to school, visiting elderly relatives, shopping, going to work). And so when it snows they are more likely to fall, which was costing Karlskoga not just in medical fees but also in lost productivity. When they did the math they found clearing the footpaths first resulted in less falls and cost Karlskoga less overall.

The book is full of examples like this, where men have designed the world around what they do (for instance travel to work and back in their car) without thinking about what women might be doing.

It gets more scary when you look at medicine though. Women are often not included in studies for medicine that they can take, meaning the dosage and reactions are unknown. Did you know that the ‘classic’ symptoms of a heart attack are for men, not women. Women who show up at A&E with a heart attack are likely to be turned away as they are not showing the ‘normal’ symptoms and so are more likely to die.

And yet it is all so easy to fix. When designing products or making medicine, include women in your panel. Ask them what they need. Find out how they plan their day.

When Gujarat, a state in western India suffered an earthquake in 2001, the houses were rebuilt without kitchens as no one consulted the women on what they needed and as cooking was women’s work, the men did not even think of it. I cannot help but wonder where they expect their next dinner to come from.

Including women at all levels of decision making is so much better for everyone. Women see the world through a different lens and combining the different outlooks of many different people can create amazing outcomes for all.

⟨⟨ Previous | Blog home | Next ⟩⟩

Contact Me

If you have any questions about my work please feel free to contact me.

Email me on or find me on Twitter or Linkedin.

Sign up to The UX Life Chose Me Newsletter and get the most interesting UX Research articles, videos and podcasts from across the web straight into your mailbox once a month.