Data on Women Is Missing... Here’s Some Data About It
There are many gender gaps in the world we live in, and one of them has to do with data. The gender data gap not only exists, but it also feeds and deepens other gaps. Here are some initiatives trying to track it where it happens and hopefully minimize it.
“Lack of data can lead to misguided policy measures or unintended impacts,” say Acting Secretary-General at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development Isabelle Durant, and Assistant Director-General at the World Health Organization Samira Asma.
After all, we live in a world where policy-makers rely on data. So if that data doesn’t accurately reflect all members of society, decisions and policies won’t represent them. “It may also reinforce gender bias and stereotyping. Sometimes lack of data can be a useful way of keeping a debate closed and preventing new perspectives.”
In 2015, 193 countries agreed upon the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 goals. Commonly referred to as “SDGs”, these goals go from ending poverty to achieving peace and justice in the world. Gender equality is on the agenda. This allowed a few initiatives around gender data to grow over the years.
Despite all these initiatives, the data available still isn’t enough. According to UN Women, “as of June 2022, [they] have 42% of the gender data [they] need to monitor the gender-specific dimensions of the SDGs.” An improvement in comparison with previous years (26% in 2016 for instance). But data collection has been hindered by the Covid-19 pandemic.
On top of that, “gender data are chronically unfunded,” states the OECD. Per the organization, 80% of their funding, between 2017 and 2019, came from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Food and Agriculture Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank and three countries: Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom.
“If we’re serious about narrowing the gender gap and helping more girls and women, then we must get serious about gathering and analyzing the data that tell the tale.” These words were spoken in July 2012 by then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. In response, Data2X was created that same year with support from the United Nations Foundation.
The platform aims to identify where gender data gaps occur and works on bridging them. To do so, it collaborates with other organizations, but also with governments, academics, as well as the private sector and civil society.
Data2X regularly publishes reports, policy briefs, and infographics around gender data. Their publications can be thematic (focusing on the climate crisis for instance) or geographically specific (like their Pakistan Gender Data Diagnostic).
Founded in 2016, this UK-based organization also keeps track of data gaps and monitors progress with the Sustainable Development Goals in mind, “to hold governments accountable.”
Equal Measures 2030 (EM2030) has put together a whole page detailing different data gaps. For each “issue” (like say, women’s inclusion in national decision-making on climate policies), the NGO provides an explanation of the problem and its consequences, and points to initiatives working on solving that specific gap.
Working with international, national and regional organizations, EM2030 also publishes a yearly “SDG Gender Index” report. The 2022 edition looks at gender equality in 144 countries between 2015 and 2020, and finds that going “back to normal”, post-Covid, is not enough to achieve gender equality by 2030. Progress has been too slow globally, with a third of the countries monitored making “no progress” or going the “wrong direction.”
A lot of data on women and girls is missing, but what about the data that does exist? UN Women’s Women Count is keeping count, “to create a radical shift in how gender statistics are used, created, shared and accessed.”
On their website, you can find a data portal filled with gender statistics showing the progress made towards achieving equality in different areas, including around gender-based violence. They also have country fact sheets looking closely into how gender-inclusive the national data is with a focus on economic, social and environmental matters, and have worked extensively on the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.
To highlight the importance of gender data and help improve their collection and use, the World Bank has created a portal with data coming from different countries, across all fields and more than 900 indicators.
Along with numbers and figures, the World Bank Gender Data Portal also features analyses, infographics and stories inspired by data on girls and women.