Invisible Women


Book comprehensiveness

  • The book being very comprehensive is a strength, but also it felt like a long litany of problems which could get tiring. 
  • The examples were great, for example, street plowing example – it seems innocuous, but turns out to be so impactful. That kind of example was great to get perspective. 
  • There is so much information, it’s tough to process it all. It’s hard to know whether she understood all the literature correctly. 


  • Not addressing enough intersectionality (e.g., sex and race, sex and socio-economic class) – in the example of stoves badly designed for women in 3rd world countries, it felt that it was likely an oversight that anyone could make if they didn’t focus on user-centered design regardless of their sex or gender as it was mostly a lack of knowledge of that particular group of women. 


  • Something that was missing in the book is, if you don’t have data – what do you do? 
  • The book didn’t feel satisfying because it lacked a framework to resolve the problem. 

Surprising things in the book

  • The issue about stoves by a non-profit helping 3rd world countries not considering the user – how much work women would have to do to use these clean stoves (e.g., collecting wood). It’s crazy to think that they don’t understand their user. 
  • Gates foundation even failed at this even if you have Melinda Gates at the helm who is a strong feminist and wrote a book on this. 

Audiobook vs. Print

  • Those that listened to the audiobook recommended it. 
  • Misha thought that the audiobook was more digestible than the text, as the text could be overwhelming. 

Things that stood out to book club participants

  • Occupational safety example: made Misha rethink the work he does and looking at gender differences. Looking at firefighters in CA, the problem is that only 3% of firefighters in CA are women, and it’s difficult to focus on 3% of the population or sometimes the sample is too small to report on it. 
  • GDP argument: Autumn liked the way it was framed, why is it that not including women’s unpaid work in GPD calculation matter. The example of cutting daycare hours, something that would save money while not impacting GDP (daycare work being invisibly picked up by women) was a very concrete example of why this mattered. 
  • Caregiving disparity between men and women
  • Minimal amount of research done on women’s issues. Rachel thought this stood out for her as she thinks of healthcare.
    • +1 from Jacqueline: crazy how the reason is that women are complicated, women have all these hormones! 

On her criticism of the NIH

  • Risha was surprised at the depiction of the NIH not doing enough of a good job at requiring women representation, since Risha’s experience has been that the NIH is quite stringent about requiring a good diversity to be represented (by gender, race, etc).
    • Rachel thinks that part of the problem is not in requiring the sample to have diversity, but around what gets funded. If a topic isn’t funded due to women’s issues not being prioritized, that’s a big problem.
  • Geoff thinks that although there’s diversity in the sample, maybe not enough research provides stratified analysis to be able to determine whether a drug or treatment is effective for a particular population. The averages may be hiding clear differences between how a particular treatment impacts men and women differently, or even women in different parts of the menstrual cycle, etc.
    • +1 Autumn hearing about covid vaccines and anecdotes of heavy menstrual cycles makes her think more about this. 

Who was the audience for the book? 

  • Risha sees the book as an encyclopedia. Great for debates to be able to pull out many great examples. But the book’s index and references really bothered her.
  • Rachel thought that the snarky tone in the book makes it difficult for the book to be used as a way to convince men who are not already bought into the premise. 
  • Misha thinks it’s a great book for decision-makers without background on this, such as your MBA graduate now in a position of power who may not have learned about these issues.
    • Risha called out that her copy of the book calls it McKinsey’s best business book of the year, so that is good. 

Where do we go from here? 

  • Risha thinks that data is one thing, asking for data to be provided. But it’s also about who’s in charge and who’s making decisions. There is no institute focused on women’s health, and the challenges for women to advance their careers are a ton. Women are systematically disadvantaged (grants, publishing, citing, etc.)
    • Women’s research can also be seen as niche/”cute” and not as respected. 
    • Need to address the systemic bias. 
    • The “novelty” requirement/criteria when funding research will also make it difficult to redo research already done in the past just to correct for the gender data gap. 
  • The group hopes for a follow-up where there’s more of a solution or discussion on how to address these gaps tactically in research being done. 

Book ignored transgender people altogether

  • Omar: For such a thorough book, it didn’t consider transgender people at all anywhere in the discussion. This is particularly missing in the section around unsafe women bathrooms.
  • Autumn: attended a trans refugees exhibition, which is mind-blowing. The challenges are multiplied.