Catherine D’Ignazio: «Cities don’t think about gender enough»

By  | 2020

Cities are diverse, rich, multilayered ecosystems. They are home to different kind of individuals who use public space and infrastructure in different ways. But, from a gender perspective, are cities really and effectively supporting those different patterns of use between men, women, and non-binary people? To Catherine D’Ignazio, Profesor of Urban Science and Planning at Massachussets Institute of Technology, «cities are facing problems that mainly stem from the fact that we don’t think about gender enough.» Thus, mainstreaming a gender-aware approach to the city remains a key challenge.

But it is never too late to change things – also in urban planning terms. And, if we want to move forward, feminist data – one of D’Ignazio’s main research areas –, can help making a big difference. «Just as we have cities that by default get designed for men, the same thing is happening in our Information Technologies, in our databases, in our Smart Mobility solutions», she points out. If we manage to address the systematic bias they entail, then we will be better prepared to make the digital layer of the city more inclusive.

We also asked D’Ignazio about how to rethink under a feminist perspective the urban infrastructure that has already been built. Her message is clear: cities need to think about «ways that support all of the genders to use public spaces effectively«, which means, in the end, challenging a «norm» that in a way only includes a minority of citizens. That is how we would move towards the urban future D’Ignazio dreams of: a future of «feminist, healthy and joyful cities.»


Interview, text and edition by Sergio García i Rodríguez,
Communications Manager at Anteverti & CitiesToBe Executive Editor

Video by Eloy Calvo


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About the authors

Professor of Urban Science and Planning at Massachussets Institute of Technology | + posts

Catherine D’Ignazio is an Assistant Professor of Urban Science and Planning in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT, where she is the Director of the Data + Feminism Lab.

She is also a hacker mama and artist/designer who focuses on feminist technology, data literacy and civic engagement. She has run women’s health hackathons, designed global news recommendation systems, created talking and tweeting water quality sculptures, and led walking data visualizations to envision the future of sea level rise.

Her forthcoming book from MIT Press, Data Feminism, co-authored with Lauren Klein, charts a course for more ethical and empowering data science practices.

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