“So, what exactly is your job?”

“So, what exactly is your job?”

By Nina Herriman

“So, what exactly is your job?” is a question I’ve heard a lot since May this year when I started as Chief Storyteller (Data and Visualisation) at the National Council of Women of New Zealand.

The good news is I’ve got this nice description of the Gender Dashboard, which is to be the focus of my work here:

The Gender Dashboard collects, collates and analyses data to build a shared understanding of the status of all women in Aotearoa New Zealand. We work with expert partners to illustrate key areas of inequality from an intersectional perspective. 

 The Gender Dashboard is one of our three innovative projects within the Gender Equal NZ campaign, which also includes the Gender Attitudes Survey and the Gender Culture Taskforce.

Gender Equal NZ is led by the National Council of Women of New Zealand. 

Sounds great, right?

Those who know a bit about data have more questions, particularly about the illustrating or storytelling part.  In a nutshell, it means putting data in context, providing a persuasive narrative and using good visualisation techniques.

It’s worth noting that a persuasive narrative also needs to be accurate – but how we’re going to do that is a discussion for a whole other blog post.

Storytelling is not always the best way to present data, but it is an ideal technique for presenting data to audiences who do not have an in depth knowledge of the data sources or the subject area, or do not interact with data frequently.

For purposes of the Gender Dashboard, we’re seeing four parts to a data ‘story’:

  1. A short statement of the issue
  2. Contextualise the data with something ‘human’
  3. Further information about what the data means for all women in NZ/ the particular group the data is about
  4. A ‘call to action’ – what can audiences do about the issue (or a celebration of a recent change)

Our analysis will focus on the first three parts of the story.  The analysis will help us identify solutions, but this part of the story will primarily come from those using the data for advocacy.

If you’re interested in reading more about data storytelling, there’s loads of information.  Here’s a few that I have found useful:

  • A more in-depth description of data storytelling with some examples:

https://www.nugit.co/what-is-data-storytelling

  • Some words of caution about trying to impose stories on data from Stephen Few:

https://www.perceptualedge.com/blog/?p=2568

  • A great talk by Cole Knaflic, author of Storytelling with Data

(Skip past the first 15 mins if you’ve got pre-attentive attributes down pat.  The final 30 mins Q&A time is worth a listen.)

Providing accurate information about the current status of all women will allow the New Zealand media to tell more accurate stories about gender, contributing to a cultural shift toward a gender positive culture. It will assist in developing a shared understanding of gender inequalities with the New Zealand public, and provide Gender Equal NZ and other community and advocacy groups with information to assist with campaigns towards gender equality.

Stay tuned for my next update!

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