Published on Let's Talk Development

Counting Women: Heavy-hitters can help make it happen

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With a data revolution upon us and as we strive to keep up in this new age of participation, what counts matters and is acted upon. If advertisers can mine our online behavior, how we use our phones and where we spend to influence our consumer choices, then surely we can design smart social programs based on gender-disaggregated data that will narrow the gaps between men and women in social and economic life, right? These and other questions were posed at an event today on “Evidence and Impact: Closing the Gender Data Gap."

What was inspiring was that two heavy-hitters – World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton – spoke eloquently about the power of data to maximize results and shape policies, whether in terms of higher productivity on farms in Africa, better social safety net programs in Peru, or more effective peace and reconciliation initiatives in post conflict countries.

The concrete takeaways from the joint Gallup - State Department event included a proposal to make progress in gleaning gender data in specific areas in a discrete number of countries, a new initiative that will improve the quality and standards used in the collection of gender-sensitive statistics, and the launch of a one-stop-shop gender data portal.

Jim Kim said, “One year from now, let’s commit to seeing progress in data availability in two areas – women’s economic opportunities, and women’s voice and agency – for at least 10 countries where that data are currently missing. We’ll need to make greater effort and investments in building statistical capacity in those countries to collect the relevant data. We will need to focus on strengthening country systems, too”.

After that, the focus would be on 10 more countries …

Secretary Clinton said, “…I’m pleased to announce a new initiative that will help carry today’s work forward. We’re calling it Data 2X…with contributions from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and USAID, Data 2X will develop new curriculum standards to ensure data producers and users train in gender-sensitive techniques. Working with key data organizations, including the UN, World Bank, OECD, PARIS21, and Gallup, the project will also publish a roadmap on how we together can fill priority gaps in gender-sensitive data as quickly as possible.”

The Secretary added that Data 2X will report on its progress in two year’s time.

A new Gender Data Portal was also launched via the Bank’s Open Data site.

The enthusiasm for closing the gender gap is real and this event built on the inroads already made by many. I was pleased as well that the World Development Report 2012: Gender Equality and Development as well as the Global Findex Database were also cited as evidence that thinking equal and counting women has become a very serious undertaking, backed by heavy-hitters.



Merrell Tuck-Primdahl

Communications Director, Brookings Institution’s Global Economy and Development Program

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