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Invisible Women: when in doubt, blame the women

Invisible Women
Invisible Women: when in doubt, blame the women
By Caroline Criado Perez • Issue #71 • View online

Dear GFPs, first up: THANK YOU to those of you who braved a theatre in a post-Covid era and came to my first book tour date since the world stopped in March 2020! It was so wonderful to be in the company of you lovely lot and feel that reciprocal energy I always get from being in a room with you. Really loved working through the book sign line too which is always a fantastic source of amazing people – I’m always blown away by how incredible my readers are, all of you doing such interesting things. I have to admit I did feel a little rusty and I started to lose my voice by the end of the event 😅 but it was lovely to be back.
Next date is in DURHAM on the 19th of October. There are still some tickets left and don’t forget GFPs get 15% off, just use the code VISIBLE15 at the checkout 🙌
SECOND! The GFP LIVE with Tracy Chou is still on, but has been moved to the 22nd October as BlockParty is launching a big new release on the 14th and Tracy is understandably likely going to be a bit busy that day. So anyone who wants to join in on the call live has until 06:59 am BST on Friday 22nd October to sign up as a member 🙌
Membership also comes with free access to the thriving online GFP community and the warm glow of satisfaction of knowing that you’re making the work I do to put together this weekly newsletter possible ❤️
Gender data gap of the week
GFPs, I regret to inform you that the economists are at it again. This week in the hot-seat: the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), who have FINALLY FIGURED OUT WHO IS TO BLAME FOR THE GENDER PAY GAP!!! 
That’s right, Joey. It turns out that after years of thinking it was men’s fault for systematically kicking us out of professions when they became more prestigious, or society’s fault for undervaluing caring roles, it turns out that all along it was our fault!
(This gif only makes sense here if, like me, you grew up in a household that owned a total of 4 videos all of which were Fawlty towers and you therefore can recite the entire show by heart on any occasion. Anyway, it’s very funny and Basil here represents all women)
(This gif only makes sense here if, like me, you grew up in a household that owned a total of 4 videos all of which were Fawlty towers and you therefore can recite the entire show by heart on any occasion. Anyway, it’s very funny and Basil here represents all women)
Of course! It’s so obvious now! As the IFS points out, women have for years been choosing the wrong degrees, the silly sausages.
The financial return to getting a degree – how much more a graduate earns compared to an otherwise similar non-graduate – varies enormously across subjects. Previous IFS research estimates that studying economics at university boosts women’s pay by 75% by age 30; this is more than ten times the return to studying creative arts (7.2%). However, women make up nearly two-thirds of creative arts graduates but less than a third of economics graduates.
In general, women are overrepresented in degree subjects with low financial returns (Figure 2). There are some exceptions – for example, medicine and law both have average or slightly above average shares of female students and very high returns.
And obviously, there is no gender pay gap in law or medicine!
Figures from a report published in December 2020
Figures from a report published in December 2020
Ah, that’s awkward. Well I’m sure law will come along and save the day for the IFS..?
Financial Times headline from 6th October 2021
Financial Times headline from 6th October 2021
Law firms also had some of the highest gender pay gaps. Women were paid 47.4 per cent less than men per hour on average at Slaughter and May, worsening from 45 per cent in 2018 and 43 per cent in 2019. At Allen & Overy, the gap was 46.4 per cent, from 39 per cent in 2018 and 44 per cent in 2019. Other law firms such as Clifford Chance and Hogan Lovells had pay gaps in the low 40s, while Linklaters and Norton Rose were close to 40 per cent.
There’s also this report from 2013, which ok is possibly slightly out of date, but then again since things are going backwards, maybe it’s not:
Female law graduates, for instance, can expect to earn 28% less than men at the start of their careers. They earn just over £20,000 on average – nearly £8,000 less than their male counterparts. This was despite that fact that more women than men applied to study law at university, out of those surveyed.
The same gap was found right across higher education subjects. Women who read medicine earned 9% less than men. And, out of those who studied physical sciences, women’s wages were £3,626 lower. In education, there was a 4.3% gender pay gap: women’s average wages were £21,679 compared with £22,661 for men.
Oh and just in case you were thinking that degrees that lead to a career in finance would be any better, there’s this from last week…
Now look, there is plenty that you can say about bankers, but choosing a low-paying profession is certainly not one of them. Still, those high-flying female bankers probably chose a silly degree like social care or nursing or something else equally ludicrous and that’s why they’re being paid so much less than their male colleagues.
Of course, there is a kernel of truth to the IFS report: female-dominated industries are systematically underpaid (although it should be said that women are still overwhelmingly paid less than their male colleagues in these industries too). But again, the problem here is not women and their unfathomably irrational choices. As I wrote in Invisible Women
Some call women’s segregation into low-paid work a choice. But it’s a funny kind of choice when there is no realistic option other than the children not being cared for and the housework not getting done. In any case, fifty years’ worth of US census data has proven that when women join an industry in high numbers, that industry attracts lower pay and loses ‘prestige’, suggesting that low-paid work chooses women rather than the other way around. 
In short, to misquote that stalwart of female empowerment, Bill Clinton, it’s the patriarchy, stupid!
Thanks for clearing that up, Bill
Thanks for clearing that up, Bill
Default male of the week
Here’s a lady choosing a degree that will lead to a well-paying career!
Fey Cole Early Years 🙋🏻‍♀️ #FE #HE
Work boots a requirement for uni course. We are now in the 6th workwear shop. They’ve been kind but made it clear smallest work boot will be a 7, size 5 is a children’s size… Think we’ve got a few female obstacles ahead of us for the trainee engineer 🙄
FYI the *average* shoe size for a woman is a size 6. And that of course is before we get to the issue of women’s feet not being small men’s feet, but you’ve already heard my rant on that one many times.
(For those of you who haven’t, my oh my have you got a treat in store!)
Anyway, I’m sure that the lack of protective workwear for this student’s body will in no way impact her career at all and it definitely doesn’t send out a message that these well-paying industries are not for women.
Remember ladies, when in doubt, blame yourselves. Even when you aren’t in doubt tbh. Blaming the women is always a safe and popular choice. Cheers!
cheers ladies
cheers ladies
No I don’t know why I put Boris Johnson in there either. Enjoy!
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GFPs fixing it
Here’s something to cheer us all up! I was delighted to see that Hertha Ayrton was honoured with a plaque in Portsmouth Port:
Hertha Ayrton, born Phoebe Sarah Marks, was a distinguished British[…] scientist, who, in 1902, was the first woman to be proposed for the fellowship of the Royal Society. Hertha’s candidature was refused on the grounds of her ineligibility for the fellowship. As a married woman she had no legal existence in British law.
However, in 1906 she was awarded the Hughes Medal of the Royal Society for her work on electric arcs and ripple marks in sand and water, the first woman to receive it for work exclusively her own.
Portsmouth Port
We were delighted to officially name our newly extended berth after Portsmouth-born mathematician, physicist, suffragette and inventor Hertha Marks Ayrton in a ceremony yesterday.

Find out more:
Mega-fans of Invisible Women may also remember that Hertha already received the great honour of a brief appearance in my introduction:
At the turn of the twentieth century, award-winning British engineer, physicist and inventor Hertha Ayrton remarked that while errors overall are ‘notoriously hard to kill […] an error that ascribes to a man what was actually the work of a woman has more lives than a cat’. She was right. Textbooks still routinely name Thomas Hunt Morgan as the person who discovered that sex was determined by chromosomes rather than environment, despite the fact that it was Nettie Stevens’ experiments on mealworms that established this – and despite the existence of correspondence between them where Morgan writes to ask Stevens for details of her experiment. Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin’s discovery that the sun is predominantly composed of hydrogen is often credited to her male supervisor. Perhaps the most famous example of this kind of injustice is Rosalind Franklin, whose work (she had concluded via her X-ray experiments and unit cell measurements that DNA consisted of two chains and a phosphate backbone) led James Watson and Francis Crick (now Nobel Prize-winning household names) to ‘discover’ DNA. 
Anyway, hurrah for Hertha! Hurrah for Portsmouth! And hurrah to gender data gaps being closed, one plaque at a time! ✊
Product of the week
In MORE GOOD NEWS! Any women looking for work boots that might actually fit their feet need look no further! CCP to the rescue! Or, more accurately, SheWear to the rescue!
Rather like Dovetail workwear, which we explored last week, SheWear was born out of the need of a woman – seems to be a running theme in POTW doesn’t it. Almost like women need gear designed for them and it might be worth mainstream brands doing something about that???
mainstream brands
mainstream brands
I stand corrected, Principal Skinner.
Anyway, in the meantime, women thankfully continue to get their GFP on and design their own solutions. The woman in question here was Stacey Head, who founded SheWear after she got a NAIL THROUGH HER FOOT on a building site. This triggered a serious search for a “supportive women’s safety boot” that ended up rather like the one up in this week’s default male of the week.
The only options were heavy, ill-fitting “unisex” (translation: men’s) boots, with zilch personality.
And as any good GFP knows, female feet are not just small male feet, so wearing shoes designed for men is not good for female foot health, especially if you’re going to be on your feet in those shoes all day. And SheWear is clearly a good GFP – check out this from their website:
Anyway, Stacey went ahead and designed her own boots – have a look at the actual visible differences:
And before you ask, no not all their boots are pink (I actually really like the pink tho so sue me)!
SheWear is based in Australia, (hello Aussie GFPs!) but they ship internationally; they also have plans for international expansion over the next 12 months.
And just to say, I’ve had a few UK-based GFPs disappointed when I have covered non-UK companies, so let me address this here:
1) I cover the companies that are doing the work. If you know of UK-based companies who are doing this, send them my way!
2) Not all my GFPs are UK-based!
3) in relation to SheWear specifically, they have pointed out that there is a UK VAT exemption for safety footwear purchased for work. So go ahead and fill, er, your boots, UK-based GFPs!
Quick but important bit of homework for you this week, GFPs.
A real chance to make a potentially massive difference. Since I’ve done my GFP survey I know that most of you have already read Invisible Women, so you may remember the section where I talk about the lack of sex-disaggregated data (or in fact data on women at all) when it comes to the impact of a whole host of chemicals:
Men and women have different immune systems and different hormones, which can play a role in how chemicals are absorbed. Women tend to be smaller than men and have thinner skin, both of which can lower the level of toxins they can be safely exposed to. This lower tolerance threshold is compounded by women’s higher percentage of body fat, in which some chemicals can accumulate. 
The result is that levels of radiation that are safe for Reference Man turn out to be anything but for women. Ditto for a whole range of commonly used chemicals. And yet the male-default one-level-to-rule-them-all approach persists. This is made worse by the way chemicals are tested. To start with, chemicals are still usually tested in isolation, and on the basis of a single exposure. But this is not how women tend to encounter them, either at home (in cleaning products and cosmetics), or in the workplace.
In nail salons, where the workforce is almost exclusively female (and often migrant), workers will be exposed on a daily basis to a huge range of chemicals that are ‘routinely found in the polishes, removers, gels, shellacs, disinfectants and adhesives that are staples of their work’. Many of these chemicals have been linked to cancer, miscarriages and lung diseases. Some may alter the body’s normal hormonal functions. After a shift of paid work many of these women will then go home and begin a second unpaid shift, where they will be exposed to different chemicals that are ubiquitous in common cleaning products. The effects of these chemicals mixing together are largely unknown, although research does indicate that exposure to a mixture of chemicals can be much more toxic than exposure to chemicals on an individual basis.
Most of the research on chemicals has focused on their absorption through the skin. Leaving aside the problem that absorption through thicker male skin may not be the same as for women, skin is by no means the only way women working in nail salons will be absorbing these chemicals. Many of them are extremely volatile, which means that they evaporate into the air at room temperature and can be inhaled – along with the considerable amounts of dust produced when acrylic nails are filed. The research on how this may impact on workers is virtually non-existent. (IW, pp. 116-7)
I also wrote about how this issue is compounded by a lack of transparency in labelling.
In the US, there are no federal laws that require companies to list ingredients in their cleaning products (in the US women do 70% of household cleaning and make up 89% of home and hotel cleaners – most of whom are ethnic minorities), and a recent report found that even supposedly ‘green’ cleaning products contain EDCs. When Always menstrual pads were tested in 2014 they were found to include ‘a number of chemicals – including styrene, chloroform and acetone – that have been identified as either carcinogens or reproductive and developmental toxins.’ (IW, p.119)
But ffs, CCP, you very reasonably say, stop scaring us and give us the homework! GFPs, your wish is my command:
Petition · Ingredients should be listed on period product packaging #PeriodNonScents ·
This petition, launched by the Women’s Environmental Network, is asking for something so basic and obviously needed, that it’s hard to believe it isn’t already a thing: a legal requirement for period product manufacturers to list all the ingredients in their products.
I mean, what possible reason could they have for not already doing this? OK, what possible *legitimate* reason could they have – as Invisible Women readers may also remember, an awful lot of lobbying money has gone into blocking transparency laws such as this.
Sure is a puzzler!
Sure is a puzzler!
The real kicker is that most of the chemicals that may be irritating our skin are there as part of the fragrance or “odour control” to keep the population at large from smelling THE FOUL STENCH OF OUR DISGUSTING BLOOD
ie they are simply a product of misogyny and not required at all. Vaginas are not dirty and disgusting. Period blood is not dirty or disgusting. And women deserve to make informed choices about what they put in or on their bodies. So sign the petition and get this on the UK government’s to-do list. There are 23.5 THOUSAND of us. We have the power to actually get this changed. Sign it, share it, do your GFP thing!
Oh and if you’re interested in finding out more, there is also this event on Wednesday, part of WEN’s Environmenstrual Week:
um, yes obviously
um, yes obviously
This week in the GFP-verse
There’s always something exciting going on in the GFP-verse! Thought I’d share a couple of highlights…
First up, there was a VERY lively discussion about family (un)friendly trains as a result of a post from a GFP who is involved in this campaign that is lobbying train operating companies and other bodies in the rail industry. In said GFP’s words:
Ever tried to lift a pram up onto a train, and wondered why you’re not entitled to use the ramps? Ever been asked to fold a pram/buggy and pop it up in the overhead storage racks (you know, using all that height and upper body strength you’ve got while the words ‘Reference Man’ whistle through your ears)? Ever wondered where you’re expected to put your baby while executing said manoeuvre? Ever had to breast/bottle-feed a child or change a nappy, or spend the entire journey sat on the floor of the vestibule area because there is no allocated space to put your fellow tiny passenger and their wheeled chariot?
Anyway, the campaign is looking for case studies, so if you recognise yourself in that description (and I’m certain that many, many GFPs do), get in touch with them here.
Second! A GFP is getting into sorting out nurseries! And she wants your ideas! If you have any thoughts on what YOU want from a nursery, what does/doesn’t work, OR if you happen to be interested in investing, you can email her at anya.navidski [at]
Anyway, how effing awesome are the GFPs?! I love our growing little community 🥰
it's true and although i may be less hot than damian lewis i am less creepy than his character so wins all round
it's true and although i may be less hot than damian lewis i am less creepy than his character so wins all round
Poppy pic of the week
It was Poppy’s birthday last week so we went out and bought her an adorable jumper (it’s quite cold up north!), a whole bunch of treats, and a new toy. No YOU spoil your dog.
That’s it! Until next time, my dear GFPs, and remember: when in doubt, blame yourself! Unless you’re a male GFP in which case blame the closest female to you 😃
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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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