Gender data can’t just be supplementary to data systems; it must be central to them.

Data2X March 03, 2021

Almost one year into the pandemic, we know the all-too-familiar story of how women are faring. The short answer? It’s bad.

But we don’t know exactly how bad, or if recovery and response efforts will be enough to ensure women and girls are supported. And massive gender data gaps—resulting from poor prioritization of gender-sensitive data systems—are partly to blame.

This is articulated in a new paper out this week, co-authored by nine organizations including Data2X, which compiles months-long research into a comprehensive brief, “Strengthening gender measures and data in the COVID-19 era: An urgent need for change.”

This brief articulates what is central to Data2X’s mission and our existing work on COVID-19. To ignore the mandate of quality gender data, or to view it as a “nice-to-have” rather than a must-have, situates us in an environment void of timely, high-quality, unbiased disaggregated data, preventing us from designing informed solutions that improve lives. And this space is one we currently find ourselves in with COVID-19: there are massive gaps in gender data, and gender measures (indicators able to measure gender data) more specifically.

The existing, though limited, data we do have shows us that men are more susceptible to infection and death from COVID-19. It also shows that women are more susceptible to the pandemic’s secondary consequences: increased care burdens, departures from the paid workforce, economic disruption, an increase in gender-based violence, and more.

But while we know these basic facts to be true, we don’t know the full extent of how people are faring because measuring and reporting on both the primary and secondary effects of the pandemic has fallen short, leaving us with a dearth of data in an increasingly urgent moment. Why does this matter? Just as these gaps have limited past policy efforts to improve women’s lives, they will limit ongoing efforts to address the immediate public health crisis, and the ongoing social and economic fallout that will remain a defining feature of development in the coming years. Unless we make a change now.

To address this, the paper’s co-authors outlined a five-part framework that details the necessary steps governments, businesses, NGOs, academics, members of the data community, and others should take to build a robust gender-sensitive data system that can inform an intersectional COVID-19 response and recovery for months and years to come:

  1. Disaggregate COVID-19-related data consistently by sex and other key characteristics to assess the primary and secondary impacts of the pandemic.
  2. Collect standardized, comparable gender data in domains where women’s and girls’ lives may be disproportionately affected.
  3. Increase use of non-traditional data to understand the full, dynamic health, social and economic impacts of the crisis.
  4. Expand the availability, access, and use of gender data related to COVID-19.
  5. Resource and support coordinated data infrastructures to produce gender data for and beyond the pandemic.

One year on, we must get to work rebuilding our societies and ensuring gender data is central to those efforts. We cannot settle for flawed systems that do not adequately capture the lives of women and girls, much less serve them. Instead, we can and must do better. Investing in gender data today leaves us better equipped to handle the challenges tomorrow.

Read the paper here.

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