Women represent 49.5% of the world’s population, but they do not have a corresponding public, political and social influence. In recent years, more and more women have raised their voices, making society aware of their challenges — data journalists included. To commemorate International Women’s Day, I have compiled a list of data journalism projects that explain and denounce the sacrifices, injustices and prejudices that women still have to face in the 21st century.
Violence against women
Discourse Media published an interactive dataset about police-reported violence against women in Canada from 2008 to 2015. Journalists across the country used the data to report on their communities.
Global estimates published by WHO indicate that about 1 in 3 (35%) of women worldwide will experience either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.
Sobrevivientes (Survivors) investigates gender-based violence in Colombia through data analysis.
The team collected data on homicides, assaults, allegations of sexual harassment in universities and attempted homicides from different sources.
Sobrevivientes also gathers the testimony of women who have suffered violence. They share their history to encourage other women to speak out.
Mothers and mortality
More than 300,000 women died in 2015 from pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications, according to the most recent data from the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The United States has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the developed world: an estimated 700 to 900 women in the U.S. died from pregnancy-related causes in 2016.
Propublica wanted to make this issue visible. Its team is identifying each of the mothers who lost their lifes giving birth and telling their stories. At the time of writing they have told 134 of those stories.
Quartz goes deeper into demographics and finds out why men outnumber women in the world by 66 million.
In China and India, the world’s most populous countries, the proportion of women in the population is lower than 49%. For cultural reasons, families in these countries prefer boys, a situation that has led to gender-based abortions and female infanticide.
However, the biggest imbalance is in the Arabian Peninsula. Thousands of men, mostly from South Asia, come to countries like Oman, Qatar or Saudi Arabia to work. They are not allowed to bring their families, which creates a huge gender disproportion.
Abortion and Google Maps
What does it happen when someone searches for abortion clinics in Google? If you are in the United States, the results may include crisis pregnancy centers, places where women are persuaded to continue their pregnancy.
Gizmondo has published a story about how anti-abortion groups buy ads on Google and game the search results algorithm system to manipulate the results in abortion-related searches.
After Gizmondo contacted Google, the company agreed to investigate why crisis pregnancy centers are included in abortion-related search queries.
Women and politics
Does the gender balance of parliamentarians and ministers reflect that in your country as a whole? Probably not, unless you live in Iceland or France.
In my country, Spain, women represent 50.9% of the population. However, in “el Congreso de los Diputados”, the chamber equivalent to the House of Commons, women account for only 39.4% of the MPs.
In the Catalan Parliament the number is a little bit higher at 43.7%. Neither Spain nor Catalonia have yet had a woman as prime minister.
The OECD has a useful dashboard about women and politics. It includes data about the number of women parliamentarians, ministers and heads of government. The data can be filtered by country and downloaded.
The Scandinavian myth
The gender pay gap has been one of the hot topics of the past 12 months, and The New York Times covers it by bursting the myth of Scandinavian gender parity.
Despite the advantages mothers have in countries such as Denmark or Norway, women with children who work full-time are still paid less than men.
The data proves that motherhood hurts mothers’ careers. One of the main reasons seems to be that women still spend more time than men on childcare.
Inequality, a problem of perception
The Harvard Business Review conducted an interesting experiment to find out whether gender differences in behaviour drive gender differences in outcomes.
For four months, the team collected data from a large multinational firm and used sensors to track in-person behavior.
After analysing the data, the team realised that the problem was not that men and women behave differently (they didn’t). Instead, gender inequality was based on how people perceive women’s actions.
Bias in the office has long being case of study. One piece of research shows that men are perceived as more responsible when they have children, while women are seen as being less committed to work.
The article suggests that programs to combat gender inequality should be based on data and not on anecdotal evidence.
Power and decision-making
Women are the majority among university students, but they are the minority when it comes to decision-making positions.
The situation in media companies is of particular concern. Around 60% of Communication and Journalism students in Spain are female.
However, only 6% of the presidents of media groups are women. Nerea Novo writes that it is a questions of hierarchy:
“The lowest the ranks in the hierarchy, the more seats are occupied by women: they are 15% of CEO’s and 14% of media editors.”
No land for women
News18 publishes a story that uncovers a surprise: Almost 70 percent of farmers in India happen to be women.
Despite being the majority, these women have to endure a tremendous lack of recognition from their families, authorities and society.
Women seed and harvest, but they rarely own the property where they work. Women in India own only 10% of the land.
The project explains the testimony of women farmers and how their work is not fairly rewarded.
“Usha Devi, 39, has been farming on a land for the last 15 years that doesn’t even belong to her. She gets up before dawn to cook for her three children and husband (…) and spends rest of her day in a four-acre plot of land right outside her house. Her unemployed husband Devendra Kumar, who usually remains away from home during the day to play cards with his friends, owns the land”.
Discrimination comes from authorities as well. Despite women are clearly the main driving force behind the agricultural economy in India, they are not taking into account in the decision-making process.