Invisible Women

By Caroline Criado Perez

Invisible Women: celebrating men


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Invisible Women
Invisible Women: celebrating men
By Caroline Criado Perez • Issue #88 • View online

Hello there GFPs! And did you have a fun International Women’s Day? Has the Bias been Broken? I must say I did rather enjoy the sterling work of the Gender Pay Gap bot which quote tweeted every employer that tweeted about IWD with the hourly gender pay gap in that organisation. As the kids say, scenes.
I’d also like to say a massive thank you to all GFPs who so generously donated following my special IWD edition of this newsletter, which focused on the impact of conflict on women – the Mukwege Foundation got in touch thank us for the “significant support” they received following the newsletter. “Some of the survivors have reached a safe place and more are on the way to flee ground zero,” they wrote. So, thank you, GFPs, for stepping up. For any of you who have yet to donate, you can do so here.
IN OTHER NEWS! I am so very excited (and slightly terrified) to finally be able to announce that I am working on a podcast:
How do we fix a world designed for men?

We’re delighted to announce that Tortoise will be producing @ccriadoperez’s first podcast – a series investigating how we close the gender data gap and design a world that works for everyone.

Arghghghghghgh! There’s so much work to be done addressing all the issues I raised in Invisible Women and I’m so excited to be working with some amazing journalists as we try to answer the question of HOW the F do we close the data gap? We’re working hard on the initial episodes as I write, with the aim of launching in a few months. I will definitely be talking about this more in future newsletters, so…stay tuned, GFPs!
STOP PRESS! I also recorded an episode of James O'Brien’s Full Disclosure podcast and you can listen to me witter on for nearly an hour with him here:
'I found it embarrassing. I thought women hadn't done as well as men because they weren't trying hard enough.'

On this week's Full Disclosure, Caroline @CCriadoPerez explains how data changed her from anti-feminist to feminist author.

@mrjamesob | Listen
Our sponsor for March is Human Solutions. Human Solutions manages the world’s largest database of anthropometric human body scans and they are joining us throughout International Women’s Month, in support of the GFP mission of creating a world that is better designed for women 🙌
This database is made up of over 100,000 3D scanned bodies of all shapes and sizes, and from different locations around the world. This anthropometric data is used to create digital avatars which can be placed in vehicles from everyday cars to bicycles, buses and space rockets, to ensure that critical controls can be viewed and accessed by all operators. The biometric data is used to model the ergonomics of female bus drivers and fighter pilots to make sure that they can reach the pedals, controls and mirrors — someone should tell Go North West Buses…
Human Solutions got started in the automotive industry, but their avatars are now used across industrial and fashion design to ensure critical equipment, PPE, clothing, footwear and glasses are correctly sized for every body. Take a look at some of the ways they are slowly making sure women are visible in the design of all products and are never excluded from pursuing their chosen professions by virtue of structural bias in design.
Gender data gap of the week
Periods, polycystic ovarian syndrome, heart health – Apple Women’s Health Study
GFPs, I have, over the years, been a little down on Apple over the years (over-sized phones that can track your molybdenum intake but not your period; state-of-the-art HQ with a wellness centre but no creche), but credit where it’s due, they’ve done some good work here.
The Apple Women’s Health Study has been running since November 2019, with the aim of increasing our understanding of the menstrual cycle and its relationship with various health conditions.
This is incredibly important. As I reported in an earlier (rather cross now I re-read it) edition of this newsletter, menstruation is an extremely important sign of overall health – to the extent that last year the American College of Obstetrics and Pediatrics (ACOG) advised doctors to consider it a “fifth vital sign”. That is, as important a consideration for women’s health as changes in body temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure.
Nevertheless, as GFPs are aware, rather than studying the menstrual cycle, in fact, researchers are more often to be found refusing to include female humans or animals in their research BECAUSE of the menstrual cycle. And they certainly aren’t considering it in the context of other health conditions:
When women are included in trials at all, they tend to be tested in the early follicular phase of their menstrual cycle, when hormone levels are at their lowest – i.e. when they are superficially most like men. The idea is to ‘minimise the possible impacts oestradiol and progesterone may have on the study outcomes’. But real life isn’t a study and in real life those pesky hormones will be having an impact on outcomes. So far, menstrual-cycle impacts have been found for antipsychotics, antihistamines and antibiotic treatments as well as heart medication. Some antidepressants have been found to affect women differently at different times of their cycle, meaning that dosage may be too high at some points and too low at others. Women are also more likely to experience drug-induced heart-rhythm abnormalities and the risk is highest during the first half of a woman’s cycle. This can, of course, be fatal. (IW, pp.204-5)
The study also aims to “help inform the development of innovative products for menstrual cycles, risk assessment, and screening of gynecologic conditions,” which, again, is much needed given the lack of effective treatment and often huge delays in diagnosis for a range of common gynaecological conditions (see IW, pp.223-235).
This study is also really good example of the potential for tech to actually help close the data gap as opposed to its standard operating procedure of exacerbating it (see IW pp.162-8). For a start, it’s much larger than most medical research on menstruation, with over 30,000 participants who represent a range of ethnicities and geographic locations. They are even disaggregating their data! This is a graph from their first data analysis release:
The first condition the study has zoned in on is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a condition that often takes years and several doctors to diagnose, and which is a leading cause of infertility. It is also known to be associated with heart-related conditions, but “historically, research studies about heart health have not included information about menstrual cycles.” Tell me something I d0n’t know.
Anyway, this study confirms the connection of PCOS with other health conditions, particularly those that “can negatively impact heart health”:
In comparison to participants without PCOS, participants with PCOS were almost four times more likely to have pre-diabetic conditions and three times more likely to have Type 2 diabetes. In people with diabetes, chronic elevations in glucose may damage blood vessels in the heart.
The prevalence of high blood pressure and high cholesterol were 1.7 times higher for participants with PCOS than participants without PCOS. High blood pressure is when blood flows with too much force, and this can damage the walls of arteries over time. Too much bad cholesterol can clog or block arteries, preventing the flow of blood.
A majority, 61%, of participants with PCOS reported obesity, defined by a Body Mass Index (BMI) of more than 30 kg/m2. Prevalence of obesity was almost double for participants with PCOS than participants without PCOS. Obesity can impact cholesterol levels, affect blood pressure, and increase risk of conditions like diabetes.
Irregular heartbeat, or arrhythmia, was more common among participants with PCOS (5.6%) than participants without PCOS (3.7%). Of the participants that did not report a PCOS diagnosis but reported family history of PCOS, 6.2% had arrhythmia.
So, perhaps we can finally dispense with the attitude that the menstrual cycle is some disparate system that should be excluded from other research?
Default male of the week
Haven’t stopped sniggering at this since I first saw it a week ago
Mark Walton
This explanation of why Bristol cathedral is replacing the plaque celebrating the ordination of women is priceless
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Poppy pic of the week
That’s it! Until next time, my dear GFPs…xoxoxo
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Caroline Criado Perez

Keeping up with the gender data gap (and whatever else takes my fancy). Like the Kardashians, but with more feminist rage. Plus, toilet queue of the week.

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