Pandemic Response and Recovery Requires an Analysis of Existing—and Missing—Gender Data

Emily Courey Pryor May 05, 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold, there is growing awareness that response and recovery efforts require gender analysis and, therefore, gender data.

Women and girls, whether directly or indirectly, are on the frontlines of pandemic response. They comprise nearly 70 percent of the global health care workforce, they make up a majority of the world’s care workers, and they stand to be significantly impacted by secondary and long-term effects of the current crisis, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

To fully understand these impacts, quality gender data is needed in every country. Gender data is crucial to mounting an effective response — not only to address the immediate effects of this public health emergency but also to tailor long-term policy measures that support the communities most disproportionately impacted.

Shining a Spotlight on Gender Data amid COVID-19 Response

In recognition of the critical need for quality sex-disaggregated data related to the pandemic, Data2X has been monitoring calls-to-action for gender data within COVID-19 responses by organizations worldwide. To amplify and make these calls widely accessible, Data2X has collated them in our updated pandemic resource page, along with links to gender data trackers and additional COVID-19 articles related to data, women’s leadership, care work, gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health, and more.

The organizational calls-to-action span a variety of themes, from health to migration and human security to economic welfare, unpaid care and beyond — illustrating that gender data is key to understanding the wide-ranging consequences of COVID-19 and designing policy responses to mitigate those impacts.

The urgent global health emergency necessitates immediate action on pressing issues, such as understanding testing, infection, and mortality rates, maintaining supplies of medical equipment that are usable by all health care workers, and safeguarding essential workers. But as this crisis continues, governments and global citizens will also need to understand and respond to the medium- and long-term effects of the pandemic.

Citizens will rightfully demand that governments design responsive policy measures and make new investments to address the immediate aftermath and better prepare for future events.

But this requires a baseline understanding of related data today so that we can act upon that information in our investments and plans for the future.

Such data includes the proportion of women employed by sector (or operating in the informal economy); the percentage of women covered by social protection programs; access to contraception; rates of gender-based violence; and school enrollment and completion rates by sex, among many others. The problem, of course, is that gender data gaps persist in each of these areas.

One Step Further: Mapping COVID-19 Gender Data Gaps

To fully understand the impact of COVID-19, we must start by analyzing what data is available, and what is not. As part of our response efforts, Data2X and Open Data Watch are undertaking a gender data gap analysis related to the pandemic. Through this analysis, we will:

  • Identify key indicators necessary to understand the social and economic impact of the crisis on women;
  • Consider the quality and availability of existing data and;
  • Identify tools needed and international agencies best placed to source and compile gender data.

Finally, this work will also point to the clear need for gender data infrastructure and investment, as data availability — let alone data use — cannot be addressed without adequate financial and political commitments. Quality gender data remains the bedrock of any good policy response.

The current pandemic puts the insidious nature of persistent gender data gaps and the consistent lack of financial and political investment in gender data into stark relief: a lack of gender data will inhibit the global community’s efforts to effectively respond and recover. We have an opportunity now to demand increased and sustained action for the gender data we need to track COVID-19-related impacts and guide long-term recovery.  

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