A student asked me on our Facebook page to help with an assignment. It got me thinking again about the nature of answers in statistics, and the challenge of communicating through graphs.

The student gave no explanation, but rather a set of data and a choice of graph-type. I have changed the data a little. As the data was about numbers of men and women in different roles in an organisation, I assume the question regards gender equity.

I have used the ubiquitous Microsoft Excel to create some candidate graphs, and I would like you to vote on which you think is the most useful. (And yes – I know that it depends, but in the absence of further information, I’m interested to see what the crowd comes up with.) Pie chart was not an option. Pie chart is almost never an option.

Here are four possible answers for the student. If you click on the graphic it should get bigger and clearer.

Which is the best graph to use?

I will post later with my opinion, but I would rather get yours first.

What I really want is a modified version of B with a reference line at 50% and with the width of the bar proportional to the number of people in the role.

I’d like a graph that is a mixture of Graph A and Graph B.
I.e. Graph A, but with “% in role” on the y-axis instead of “Number in role”.
Reason: The total number of people in each role differs – more “other”, less “finance” and the others have similar numbers. To compare the % of males and females across the roles, we need % not number. And I like a bar chart instead of a stacked bar chart.
Penny

What I really want is a modified version of B with a reference line at 50% and with the width of the bar proportional to the number of people in the role.

Nice suggestion. A bit tricky in Excel. I wonder how well people would understand it.

I’d like a graph that is a mixture of Graph A and Graph B.

I.e. Graph A, but with “% in role” on the y-axis instead of “Number in role”.

Reason: The total number of people in each role differs – more “other”, less “finance” and the others have similar numbers. To compare the % of males and females across the roles, we need % not number. And I like a bar chart instead of a stacked bar chart.

Penny

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“Best to use” for what? What is the essential story one wishes to tell using these data?