The IMF Puts Gender Data at the Forefront of Their First Gender Strategy
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has taken a major step towards incorporating gender concerns in its dialogue with countries, underscoring the importance of gender data as a first and essential pillar in a newly released Gender Mainstreaming Strategy. The strategy is an important model for future investment in gender-disaggregated data across the international community — promoting economic growth and resilience for women, their families, and their communities. This strategy comes at a crucial time: next year marks the midpoint toward achieving the Global Acceleration Plan for Gender Equality and the halfway point in the 2030 Agenda.
This is great news — the IMF has been criticized by feminists in the past for its slow progress toward addressing gender inequality. Concrete action from the organization shows the ripple-effect that gender data can create. Data-based evidence on gender inequality and its dire consequences if unaddressed, is what leads organizations like the IMF to take practical measures. As stated by Philip Jennings, Executive Director of the IMF Executive Board, “Solid data makes it hard not to take action.”
The strategy outlines the development of an internal Central Data Hub, bringing together macro-relevant gender data in a user-friendly format. Using both new and pre-existing data, IMF country teams can provide tailored policy advice to countries using real, and easily accessible, evidence. These augmented tools for data analysis will allow the Fund to reduce capacity constraints often faced by nations collecting their own gender data.
The Implementation of This Strategy Must Be Just as Bold
Data is a compelling tool to create urgency – and a vehicle for concrete change. The challenge ahead lies in implementing these forward-looking ideas. First and foremost, the IMF will need to address gender data gaps and gaps in financing for gender data. Gender data gaps are particularly pronounced for economic sector statistics, both in national and international data sources — and these are the kind of data that are most directly relevant to support the IMF’s basic argument that gender equality is “macro-critical.” For instance, UN Women states that no data has been reported for any country on the hourly earnings of women employees and the number of women living below the national poverty line, two gender-specific SDG indicators that are needed to build macro-critical evidence for policymaking.
Unfortunately, data has never been a popular item in national or international budgets. Persistent low levels of financing for gender data go hand-in hand with recurring gender data gaps. Data2X and ODW have calculated that to build and sustain core gender data systems, USD 500 million in official development assistance is needed every year from now through 2030, double what is currently allocated. The IMF must exercise its unique leadership in the financial community to persuade countries, donors, and key international development agencies in the forefront of data production in the economic sectors, such as the World Bank and the ILO, to commit to finding financial and non-financial solutions to close these gender data gaps.
We applaud the IMF for the commitment it has made to addressing gender inequalities and collecting more and better data on women and girls, and look forward to the IMF’s continued leadership in their dialogue with countries, international agencies and donors.