Growing up in what is considered to be a common household in Brazil, the free time of our family on weekends was usually spent in the kitchen, for the women, and in house repairs, for the men. Following the very direct (and imposed) roles each gender has in society. 

As a young adult, I could see those differences clearer and each time I had a new realization, I would disagree even more with this kind of segregation. But it wasn’t until I read a book called Invisible Women by Caroline Criado, which was a gift from a friend, that I realized how deep this rabbit hole is and how embedded this concept is in society and humanity.

When reading this book, I stumbled on a concept that would better explain what I was observing, but had no name, the Gender (Data) Gap.

Gender Data Gap

Following the Invisible Women’s book explanation for this concept, there is a difference between the term “sex” and “gender”. Sex is the biological characteristic one is born with – male and female. Now, gender is the meaning imposed in society for that biological characteristic, for example, the way women may be treated just because they are perceived as female.

Historically, men have been seen in society as the default, the standard. We can see that in the discovery of human species with the homo sapiens, in the grammar with many languages having prominent professions only in a male version and not female, relating those professions with men-only and therefore creating a bias. The pattern repeats itself over all parts of our culture – cinema, news, literature, science, data.

And because men have been seen as the universal default, men’s data represents the vast majority of what is known in humanity, which leaves a lack of data and information about women, the other half of the population, making them feel forgotten, unseen, invisible. This is what is called Gender Data Gap.

Examples of how this impacts women’s everyday life are the fact that working office air conditioning temperatures are usually set to a male body temperature norm, making women colleagues freeze at work, or having high top shelves at a height that only a man would be able to reach. – And these are just the examples many would consider “silly”, they are the pretty basic ones. I will share the not so basic below.

The Heart Attack

When you think of someone having a heart attack, what is the image you see? Probably a middle-aged, overweight man with a hand on his chest. Well, even though it is not spoken about, women do have heart attacks too. In fact, according to the Invisible Women book, a research collected data from 22 million people from different continents across the globe and concluded that women from socio-economic backgrounds are 25% more likely to suffer a heart attack than their male counterparts in the same situation.

Another research mentioned by Criado was conducted in the UK and found that women are 50% more likely to be misdiagnosed when suffering a heart attack, that’s partially because we don’t have chest and left-arm pain, but rather stomach pain, breathlessness, nausea and fatigue. Which might be considered “atypical” symptoms by doctors because it looks different from the standard universal heart attack symptoms – the man based data symptoms.


This is just one of the examples shared by the author in her book, but the situation is presented in city planning, public spaces, product design, clinical trials for new medicine, politics, education and many other sections of our lives. And the solution is very clear: to close the female representation gap. When women are involved in the planning, the decisions, the research, we do not get be forgotten, which has proven to benefit humanity as whole.

Which gender gap have you noticed around you? Which data was missing to cause the gap?



Invisible Women: Exposing data bias in a world designed for men by Caroline Criado Perez

Photo by Giovana Cury