Data Viz Done Right

April 17, 2016

Makeover Monday: Where Do Women Have the Most and Least Political Representation in the U.S.?


Yes, it’s Sunday, but there are weeks when I simply don’t have the time for Makeover Monday on Monday. This is one of those weeks. For Makeover Monday this week, we are reviewing a visualisation created by the National Conference on State Legislatures. According to the NCSL:

"Approximately 1,809 women serve in the 50 state legislatures at the beginning of the 2016 legislative session. Women make up 24.5 percent of all state legislators nationwide."

Wow! Only 24.5%…that’s sad America. We need to do something about it. Those figures are accompanied by this map that shows the percentage of women in state legislatures in 2016.

This viz is definitely not terrible. There are several things that this map does well:

  • Using four distinct bins for the colouring makes it easy to see concentrations like all of the yellow in the middle of the U.S. and all of the green on the west coast and northeast
  • Making the extra squares for the small states that would be tough to click on
  • Nice interactivity on hover
  • Good tool tips

But I feel like this is so much more to this story. So when I created the data, I included population rates by state. This way I could look at thedisparity between the female population in each U.S. state and the percentage of women in state legislatures.

What would I do differently?

  • Get rid of the filled map; while they included the extra callouts for the small states, it add more to the viz than is needed
  • There’s no sense of how under-represented women are. Are we supposed to just assume each state is 50% female then do the math in our head? I think that’s too much work for the reader.
  • No mobile version
  • Not enough distinction in the colours. Why not use a continuous colour scale?
  • Need a more impactful title
  • Need a better way to make comparisons
  • There’s no ranking of the states. How do I identify the best and the worst?

Given these recommendations, I’ve create the viz below. I also made this device responsive, so you will see a different viz depending on whether you’re on a computer, tablet or phone. I did this because I want to learn to design for mobile first, something John Burn-Murdoch has recommended to us when he’s come to chat with us at the Data School.


  1. "I also made this device responsive".

    This is a really cool feature, is this new to Tableau 10? If so, how easy it to use?

    I did find a "hack" for earlier versions using some CSS, but it isn't very elegant.

    Thank you in advance.


  2. J, I followed these instructions.

    I believe 10 is supposed to make this easier, but I don't know how this will impact embedding. Not sure if we'll still need to use CSS to make it work, but I found it pretty simple.

    1. Thanks Andy! I hadn't seen this before.

  3. Constructive feedback: I had a tough time figuring out what the blue side of your lines were until I realized it seems to be a track to 100%. The left column shows the most represented to least, but the middle and right columns should be sorted so the states are in the same order as the left for easy comparison down the chart without having to use the highlight action. If I want to see how each state does it'd take me all day clicking on one state at a time.

    1. Thanks for the feedback Jerry! That was indeed one of the debates that went through my head. My thinking was that it was more intuitive to look down the viz instead of across. I certainly can see what you mean. I appreciate the feedback!