By Patricia Roxas
While it is easy to say that gender inequality exists, it is difficult to prove it due to the complexities of the issue. Therefore, many organisations have utilised one of the emergent practices, data visualisation, as a way to help the audience better understand the complex issues on gender equality. One prominent example is ‘No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project’ created by Fathom Information Design. Fathom Information Design creates interactive data visualisations for the web, mobile devices and large format installations. They have an impressive client list consisting of the Gates Foundation, GE, Thomson Reuters, and Consumer Reports. Their project entitled ‘No Ceilings: The Full Participation project’, developed for the Clinton Foundation and Gates Foundation, was selected as one of the finalists for the 2015 Innovation by Design Awards.
‘No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project’ is data-driven platform that explores a comprehensive view of the gains and gaps experienced by women and girls worldwide since 1995. The site not only features a series of interactive data visualisations but also exploratory maps, videos and articles. These interactive and educational tools cover a wide range of themes such as Health, Education, Economy, Leadership, Security and Communication.
Source 1: Interactive Data Visualisation of the gender gap in workforce participation (Fathom Information Design 2016)
Source 2: Exploring the gender gap in workforce participation through an interactive touch screen (Fathom Information Design 2016)
For example, the visualisation for the gender gap in workforce participation (Source 1) has been designed by Fathom Information Design in a simple and elegant manner. Simple lines of varying lengths are used to represent the gap while dots at both ends of the line are used to represent the genders. So, as the users toggles between the years, they are able to witness the lines change lengths, making the gender gap across the globe more perceivable as opposed to stating numbers. The changing lines also makes it more evocative as it can make people feel uncomfortable when seeing the longer lines and relieved when seeing the shorter lines. Each line is representative of a country so when clicked upon either on the Web or a touch screen surface (Source 2), detailed statistical information of the gender gap in the chosen country is revealed.
Source 3: Interactive Data Visualisation of the rates of female entrepreneurs in the world (Fathom Information Design 2016)
Similarly, the other interactive visualisations featured on the site are very effective at displaying vast amounts of complex numerical data into a clear format. As shown in source 3, the information is represented through the use of colours, simple shapes and minimal text. This is useful as it makes it easily understandable for users across the globe, particularly those whose first language is not English.
This project has proven that data visualisation is an appropriate emerging technology that could be used to address the issue of gender equality as it allows one to uncover the complex issues at an instant. According to Chelsea Clinton, simply uncovering facts has the potential to inspire and aid the next wave of solutions (Internetweek 2015). Moreover, interactive data visualisations as opposed to static data visualisations are certainly significant in our technological world as it makes it possible to be accessed online through the Web and mobile devices. These are mediums which people from around the world are familiar with and constantly engaging with. Therefore, it offers the advantage of extensive reach and engagement in the issue of gender equality. It also opens up new potentials in the area of designing for change. For instance, ‘No Ceilings has made it accessible online, including on GitHub, in the hopes that other people can build innovations using this data’ (Internetweek 2015).
Fathom Information Design 2016, No Ceilings, viewed 29 August 2016, <https://fathom.info/noceilings/>.
Internetweek 2015, ‘Chelsea Clinton Wants to Use Data to Change the World’, weblog, Medium, viewed 29 August 2016, <https://medium.com/@internetweek/chelsea-clinton-wants-to-use-data-to-change-the-world-2fb42fc7f126#.62mtj8lcb>.