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Opinions expressed on this blog reflect the writer’s views and not the position of the Capgemini Group

Data Visualisation - a selection of my favourites Sept 2014

Category : Data Visualisation
Earlier this month I watched a Hans Rosling TED talk on “How not to be ignorant” about the world. He asked his audience three questions about how situations have changed globally in the past thirty years and in all cases his audience guessed worse than random or, as he put it, they were beaten by the chimps at the zoo.
His basic premise was that we are subjected to so much bias about how bad the world is becoming, that our intuition becomes flawed. However, at one point in the lecture, whilst pointing out to his audience that the opportunities for girls to get an education have globally almost equalled those of boys, he did stress that this doesn’t mean that gender equality is not still a global issue worth some focus.
This introduction leads into the first three data visualisation articles that I’ve chosen for this month, which all reflect something of the gender inequality that is faced in most, if not all, industries across the world. I’ve not chosen them to make a point, but rather because of each of these is a nice example of the use of charts to show data objectively.

How male and female Harvard academics share the household chores

This article describes a simple pair of line charts which are slightly unusual in their style. There are two separate types of information plotted on the same chart and it works beautifully. It appears on a blog whose raison d’être is usually to criticise charts, so the author calling this one out for its simplicity of communication speaks volumes.

Attitudes towards male and female bosses

However, here are charts which didn’t start out beautiful. I’ve seen the second one before: it shows how the number of female CEOs in Fortune 500 companies has slightly increased recently, along with multiple suggestions for how to improve it; but the first one is new to me.
Both charts start out as line charts which tell a story, but arguably not the key story which the data presents. The changes to bar charts show again how important it is to consider carefully when you choose which chart to use.

Average male and female wages

Hans Rosling again? Well, only if you read down to the bottom of this article, in which the author, Robert Kosara, lists his favourite charts ever. Rosling features along with a chart that I referenced a couple of months ago, but the reason for my citation of this article is the below chart from the NY Times in 2010.

The dark black line is the “equality” line and the dots on the chart compare female wages in an industry to male wages in the same industry. Any dot below the black line show where females are paid less, any above show where they are paid more. It would be interesting to see a refresh of this chart for 2014….

Charting the impact of terrorism in the last 40 years

I very much like small multiple charts – when lots of very small charts are presented to show the same stories for different groups (countries, age bands, organisations, schools etc.) and this is a slightly unusual example from the authors of a chart that was in my top 5 last year. It isn’t particularly cheery, or optimistic, but that doesn’t get in the way of it being a great way to represent a large amount of data.
These small multiples show 25 terrorist organisations and the number of wounded and / or killed by those organisations over the time period 1970 – 2013. You can see how incidents related to the IRA have near enough stopped whilst incidents caused by the Taliban have continued to increase over the past decade or so. I like how the authors of the charts have realised that the specific dates aren’t the story, but rather the overall picture of change.

A bit more light hearted to finish

I often find when out and about near our offices that the bar staff don’t know the difference between beer types and that it wouldn’t matter if they did, because they only serve beer in the first two colours of this picture whilst I only like to drink beer in the last four colours. Though maybe if I took the picture out drinking with me I might stand a better chance of getting to drink what I wanted to?
(PS. If you want to know “how not to be ignorant”, the TED talk is 20 minutes long and an enjoyable watch as Hans Rosling’s lectures infamously are.)

About the author

Cathy Buchanan
Cathy Buchanan
Working in Operational Research for over ten years, as a consultant my goal is to help clients understand the value that data brings to their organisations. Before consultancy, I spent 5 years working in call centre design and am now very interested in promoting “the contact centre of the future”, utilising & combining multiple customer channels efficiently. My areas of specialisation are Optimisation, Simulation and Data Visualisation.

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