7 Data Visualizations that Opened the World’s Eyes to Gender Inequality

Katja Iversen
6 min readAug 23, 2017

The late data wiz and edutainer Hans Rosling once said: “My interest is not data, it’s the world. And part of world development you can see in numbers. The idea is to go from numbers to information to understanding.”

Good data gives the world the information it needs to act upon pressing issues, and visualizations can help bring the data to life. Covering the gender pay gap to the unmet need for family planning, below are seven excellent examples of data visualizations that have increased awareness, demystified research, and illustrated the gravity of gender inequality across the globe.

1. What’s Your Pay Gap?
Source: The Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal explores the pay gap between men and women in 422 U.S. occupations.

Despite the fact that fully closing the gender gaps could add up to 26% to world GDP by 2025, women across the world are still vastly underpaid compared to their male counterparts. In the United States, the average woman will earn 78 cents for every dollar a man earns. Globally, that discrepancy is even worse at only 50 cents to the dollar.

Did you know? At the current rate, closing the pay gap will take another 170 years

2. Abortion Rights Around the World
Source: The Guardian

This interactive bar chart from The Guardian shows country-by-country breakdowns of abortion rights, including where the procedure is permitted and under which specific circumstances.

Almost all abortion-related deaths occur in developing countries, with the highest number concentrated in Africa. Recent studies estimate that 8–18% of maternal deaths worldwide are due to unsafe abortion, and the number of abortion-related deaths in 2014 ranged from 22,500 to 44,000.

Did you know? There are still six countries in the world that do not permit abortion under any circumstances.

3. Gender Equality in Schools Decreases Child Marriage
Source: Gapminder

Gapminder’s totally customizable display allows users to compare many data sets of their choosing — everything from life expectancy, to trends in childbearing, to average age of marriage and beyond — over time and broken down geographically.

The year-over-year display shows both the growth of gender parity in primary and secondary education as well as the increasing age of marriage over time. However, 121 million children and adolescents are currently out of primary and lower secondary school worldwide — a number that has remained essentially constant since 2007.

Did you know? Each year of secondary education reduces the likelihood of marrying as a child before the age of 18 by five percentage points or more.

4. How Nations Stack Up on Gender Equality
Source: The World Economic Forum

This stunning interactive website from World Economic Forum visually lays out the gaps between women and men across four key areas — health, education, economics, and politics — to determine which are the best and worst countries for gender parity.

Of all the data displayed, political representation — which includes female members of parliament, females at the ministerial level, and female heads of state — has seen the least progress over time, with a median gender gap of only 16.5%. Perhaps surprising to some, Rwanda tops the list with the most women in parliament.

Did you know? There is no nation in the world that has a gender parity score of 100%.

5. Millions of Women Need Family Planning
Source: No Ceilings

The bedrock of gender equality is a woman’s ability to control her own body and fertility. This data visualization from No Ceilings shows the change in modern contraception usage around the world from 1970 to 2015.

The trend towards contraceptive uptake over the years is encouraging, but this tool also illustrates gaps in family planning that still exist in many parts of the world. Satisfying the current unmet need for contraception in developing countries alone could help avert 67 million unintended pregnancies per year. It could also prevent the deaths of 76,000 women from pregnancy-related causes.

Did you know? 214 million women still have an unmet need for modern contraception, meaning they want to avoid pregnancy, but are not using modern methods to do so.

6. Work-Life Balance Not a Reality for Women
Source: OECD

Although the quality leisure time is important for people’s overall health and wellbeing, women face huge hurdles in carving out restorative time for themselves. As illustrated through this OECD display, the concept of work-life balance not only varies across cultures, there are gender components to this data that cannot be ignored.

Women do not stop working when they leave their offices. At home, they bear the brunt of unpaid work, such as cooking, cleaning, and caring for children, the sick, and the elderly. An average Italian woman spends 22 hours (or almost 3 full-time workdays) more than her partner on unpaid work per week, while this gap averages 5 hours in the Nordic countries. Altogether, the estimated annual value of women’s unpaid work totals$10 trillion, or 13% of global GDP.

Did you know? If women and men were to share unpaid tasks equally, women would gain 5 hours of free time per week.

7. Maternity Leave Wildly Different Across Nations
Source: World Policy Analysis Center

Providing nutritional support for all women and babies is a small price to pay for healthy future generations. Yet this data map from the WORLD Policy Analysis Center shows a stark contrast in maternity leave policies across countries.

The World Health Organization recommends at least 6 months of breastfeeding, which is challenging for working mothers without generous paid leave policies. In family-friendly nations like Sweden, parents are given 480 paid days per child. Compare that to the U.S. — where paid maternal leave is optional — and it is no surprise that only 14% of employers chose to extend such a benefit.

Did you know? The only countries that do not mandate paid maternity leave are Papua New Guinea, Suriname, and the United States.

View at: https://www.worldpolicycenter.org/policies/is-paid-leave-available-for-mothers-of-infants

What gets measured gets done. For gender equality advocates, data visualizations like those above, motiongraphics like Nike’s popular Girl Effect, and infographics like the ones Women Deliver is known for help tell a richer story, thereby turning evidence into action for girls and women everywhere.

What all of these data visualizations demonstrate is that we still have far to go in the name of gender equality. But thanks to the combination of solid evidence and innovative design, the way forward is clearer than ever.



Katja Iversen

Katja Iversen is an executive adviser to world and corporate leaders, an author and advocate for global health, DEI, and purpose driven prosperity.