A flatlay of books about the gender gap

Books to break down boundaries. Image: Mica Murphy/Penguin

We all know there’s a gender pay gap (according to the World Economic Forum, it will take 135.6 years to close it) and that women take on the bulk of unpaid caring responsibilities (Carers UK says that 58% of carers are women), but just how far off is equality for women?

This Women’s Equality Day, these eight books will help you make sense of the history of gender inequality, get to grips with how class, race and more intersect to make the problem worse for some women, and will show you what can be done to make a change.

Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez (2019)

If you want a straightforward look at how the world discriminates against women everyday, begin with Caroline Criado Perez’s Invisible Women, which examines data bias and how the world is designed for men.

Invisible Women will tell you things you knew – that most offices, for example, are five degrees too cold for women or that women in Britain are 50% more likely to be misdiagnosed following a heart attack – and more importantly why (because research in both these areas was focused on men).

This overview of everything from government policy to technology and the workplace uses case studies, stories and new research to illustrate the way women are forgotten and the impact that has on everyone.

Read more: Interview: Caroline Criado Perez: 'I knew I couldn't get a single detail wrong'

The Authority Gap by Mary Ann Sieghart (2021)

Inequality can be a solid, tangible thing, as demonstrated by the numerous examples in Criado Perez’s book. But it can also be something which you know and experience but is less easy to prove, such as being patronised in the workplace or having your expertise frequently challenged just because you’re a woman.

Unseen bias at work is the subject of Mary Ann Sieghart’s The Authority Gap, which exposes the scale of the gap that still exists between men and women today. Startling statistics Sieghart uses include the fact that US Supreme Court Justices are interrupted four times more often than male ones, and that British parents, when asked to estimate their child's IQ will place their son at 115 and their daughter at 107.

Using data and interviews with women including Baroness Hale and Bernardine Evaristo, Sieghart takes a fresh look at bias, arming us with the evidence needed to “prove” bias exists.

Read more: How photos from the G7 summit show the glaring gender authority gap

Women, Race & Class by Angela Y. Davis (1981)

Inequality against women isn’t just about gender – racism and class prejudice, as well as other factors, can exacerbate discrimination against women.

In her groundbreaking and iconic history of race, gender and class inequality, Angela Y. Davis looks at the female struggle for liberation from a viewpoint often ignored or sidelined.

Davis uses the intertwined histories of the abolitionist and women’s suffrage movements to examine the racism and classism that is often found in white feminism.

Although written 40 years ago, the book “still continues to shed light on issues that affect Black women in the present day” and her recounting of history "remains simultaneously illuminating and heartbreaking almost half a century later”. 

Read more: 'Illuminating and heartbreaking': why Angela Davis’s Women, Race & Class still resonates

Why Women Are Poorer Than Men and What We Can Do About It by Annabelle Williams (2021)

Women, Annabelle Williams tells us, do 60% more unpaid work than men, while female entrepreneurs only receive 1p in every £1 of funding given to start-up businesses. In isolation, these facts are shocking, but their true impact is only felt when you realise the huge impact the limiting of women’s wealth has on, well, everything.

A review of the book by The i said that “Williams paints a disturbing picture of the feminisation of poverty”. In her look at financial inequality – going beyond the gender pay gap – Williams might be disturbing us, but she’s also showing us that only by learning about the gender wealth gap will we change it.

Feminists Don't Wear Pink (and other lies) ed by Scarlett Curtis (2018)

What does feminism mean to you? That’s the question that forms the basis of this anthology of essays curated by Scarlett Curtis and featuring 52 women from a variety of backgrounds.

From Emma Watson to Lolly Adafope and Alicia Garza, this collection is an essential read for anyone who wants to broaden their understanding of the f word, and understand exactly why there’s no one-size-fits-all model of feminism.

And once you’ve read the book, listen to Curtis’ podcast of the same name, where she interviews women including Candice Carty-Williams, Munroe Bergdorf and Mindy Kaling about feminism. 

The Penguin Book of Feminist Writing ed by Hannah Dawson (2021)

This anthology draws on poems, novels, memoirs and manifestos to paint a picture of feminism and the struggle against sexism and inequality from the 15th Century to the present day.

Edited by Hannah Dawson, senior lecturer in the history of ideas at King's College London, and with a new essay by her, this book looks at the way race, class, capitalism, imperialism and more intersect with gender and the patriarchy.

For an understanding of the long fight for women’s equality, this is an essential read.

Inferior by Angela Saini (2018)

For centuries, we’ve been told by science – the ultimate in impartiality – that men and women are fundamentally different. But is that really true?

In Inferior, science journalist Angela Saini looks into the gender wars in biology, psychology and anthropology, tracing how the idea that men and women are different developed, and to what extent it’s correct.

Saini takes readers on a journey into how women are being “rediscovered” by science, creating an alternative view where women are included, and society is moving to becoming more equal.

Rage Becomes Her by Soraya Chemaly (2018)

Women’s anger is often seen as a negative trait, a sign that women are “too emotional”. Being calm in the face of inequality is seen as a positive, and for those that don’t comply, there are plenty of names that are bandied about. But, argues Soraya Chemaly in Rage Becomes Her, anger is a really useful tool for positive change, and in fact the most important resource women have.

Underpaid, overworked and often diminished in the workplace and in society at large, women have plenty of reasons to be angry. Chemaly analyses anger as it relates to a number of topics, including self-worth, objectification and pain, and looks at how repressing anger causes women harm.

Rage Becomes Her will make you feel inspired to make a change, and learn how to use anger in the battle for women’s equality.

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