Annie Lefforge is a designer interested in visual beauty and how it functions to make the world a better place. Currently at Handled.


First: I was so interested in the Invisible Women episode of 99% Invisible that I bought the book shortly after. Data bias is something I haven’t thought a lot about in the past, but I was very entertained by Caroline Criado-Perez’s account of how a lack of gender-disaggregated data is extremely harmful to women.

As a woman – and someone who is very interested in gender studies – I was angry to find that studies involving solely male subjects can be fatal to women. Criado-Perez’s example of car crash dummies was particularly terrible. Considering this book is relatively new (published in March of 2019, only a little over a year ago) it shocks me that Criado-Perez is one of the first to bring light to this issue. It also makes me wonder what we can do to change it.

This is where IDEO comes in, along with the importance of empathizing with our entire audience, not just a select group. It’s easy to collect data from the people around you - people who are typically like you. But it’s becoming increasingly clear how much our biases further harm minorities. It’s a vicious cycle that starts with racism and sexism (from which stems classism, which manifests as segregated communities and so on). The intersections of these are particularly tricky. Black women face more harm from data bias than white women - white men are the most represented group in all data, which perpetuates their cultural dominance.

The importance of empathy for everyone has become apparent in these readings. Empathy isn’t just about a client or a research group - it’s about who you include in these circles, and the representation within them. A future-facing solution to these problems is simple: collect data that represents everyone, not just the racial and gender makeup of an organization.

SEPT 2020