Women’s Work uses cross-stitched data visualisations to explore discrimination in the workforce

The project by Portland-based designer Olivia Johnson uses a widespread lockdown hobby and the stereotypes of its history to depict important facts about the pay gap, harassment and more.

24 August 2020


During lockdown one of the most popular newly adopted hobbies was cross stitch, and Portland-based designer and artist Olivia Johnson has used the increased prevalence of the aesthetic and its traditional roots with witty irony for a new project, Women’s Work. Through a series of cross-stitched data visualisations, Johnson depicts statistics around the discrimination of women in the workforce, covering topics from sexual harassment to the lack of women in leadership positions, the pay gap and how parenthood impacts earnings.

“Cross stitch, a form of art that tends to be labeled as kitsch and women’s hobby craft, was utilised to emphasise the fact that women’s labour is routinely dismissed and undervalued,” Johnson describes. The designer currently works at design studio Instrument, but in her personal work combines skills in data, interactivity and graphic design to make work that aims to make a positive social impact on society. Women’s Work, she adds, is a “reaction to the discrimination that women, notably women of colour, continue to face in the workforce.”

One set of pie charts shows that 41 per cent of all women working in corporations in the US have experienced sexual harassment at work (based on a 2019 report titled Women in the Workplace), and shows that with LGBTQI+ women, women with disabilities, women in technical roles and senior-level women, the percentage is far higher.

Another visualisation based on the same report shows in succinct columns that women, particularly Black women and Latina women, are far less likely to be promoted. And one chart inspired by a study by Pew Research Center shows that women who work are much more likely to sacrifice their careers for family than men who work.

The pieces use the cross-stitch grid to their full advantage, creating neat, concise and visually pleasing charts of all types – including pie, bar and pyramid – following a uniform colour palette of red and blue in a range of tones. As such, they could stand alone simply as beautiful artworks, embedded with stark realities that are only revealed digitally on the dedicated Women’s Work website when you hover over each image. See the full project here.

GalleryOlivia Johnson: Women’s Work (2020)

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Jenny Brewer

Jenny oversees our editorial output across work, news and features. She was previously It’s Nice That's news editor. Get in touch with any big creative stories, tips, pitches, news and opinions, or questions about all things editorial.

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