Houses of Parliament Membership

This is a fairly powerful visualisation, but I’ve got a few problems with it…

1. What’s the story?

You kind of already know the answer before you see the results! So there are more male MPs than there are female – that ain’t news! This is a common weakness in many visualisations – it’s not showing you anything new, but rather its a pretty picture of a statement we already know to be true?

2. What’s the purpose of the visualisation?

Do we even need a graphic to get across this particular message? Is it adding any real value – we’ve already made the very bold statement in the title of the visualisation – “More male MPs were elected in 2010 than the total number of female MPs ever”. That clear statement is arguably enough on its own – I’m not sure the graphic is doing anything to drive that argument home?

3. Make it a fair argument!

It’s a leading question and that’s what I really don’t like. The author had a clear agenda – to highlight discrimination against women. Don’t take sides and try to let the user explore the data and draw their own conclusions.

Visualisations can and should be powerful – they should prompt a debate and discussion, but they should be based on a level playing field for that debate, with no obvious bias.

4. More questions than answers?

What about the context? The first thing I think when I see this graphic is ‘ok, but how many women actually stood for election?’.

We are implying that people aren’t voting for women, but we aren’t backing that up with evidence. We aren’t telling the whole story and we have to be very careful when we do that.

This is only part of the picture. Try to paint as complete a picture as you possibly can. That’s not always possible, but try to at least be honest about the gaps in your data.

Don’t leave them wanting more, or more confused than they were to begin with.


2 thoughts on “Deconstructed Viz – Male vs Female in the UK Houses of Parliament

  1. Also … the blue blocks are going horizontally (see top row), the red ones are going vertically (see right row.) What’s the point of that?

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