Opinion: Once upon a statistic — why we're calling for gender data impact stories

Young women in Indonesia participate in an activity aimed at improving the access of poor and marginalized women to social protection provided by the government. Photo by: Edy Purnomo / Australian Embassy Jakarta / CC BY

Together we are weaving the tale of gender data. Like all good stories, this tale features wise characters — pioneers in the field who began the conversation about the importance of collecting and using unbiased data about the lives of girls and women at the Beijing Conference over two decades ago — and brave champions who have continued the work today.

Like all good stories, however, there are challenges to overcome — to close gender data gaps we need greater political will, technical capacity, and resources. To help address these challenges, we also need concrete examples from around the world that show how collecting and using gender data can lead to positive outcomes.

Although a dearth of gender data means that these stories can be hard to find and compile, we are certain they exist, and so Data2X, in partnership with Open Data Watch and Devex, has opened a call for Gender Data Impact Stories.

Prologue: Teasing out the data to outcome link

Gender Data Impact stories submission information:

Call for stories open: Monday, Jan. 8, 2018

Information sessions: Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018 and Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018. Two phone calls will be held to address questions of applicants. Applicants will be invited to submit questions online in advance. Call details will be shared on the Data2x and Open Data Watch websites and social media channels prior to the calls.

Submission deadline: Thursday, March 8, 2018

What do we mean by data impact? For the Gender Data Impact project, we are seeking stories that demonstrate a strong link between data and outcome. We are searching for stories that clearly connect all stages of the data value chain — from collection to analysis to dissemination and, finally, to use. The data can come from a wide variety of sources including official statistics, census data, administrative data, or “big” data, but the key is that the use of that data must lead to a change in outcome.

This outcome might be a shift in policy at the subnational, national, regional, or international level. For example, has new, stricter legislation been put forth due to the release of alarming new domestic violence figures? It might be a change in a development partner funding stream or technical assistance approach. Has data on girls’ school attendance rates spurred donors to shift focus? It might be a change in the way a major regional or national program is implemented. Has service delivery of a maternal health program changed once new data highlights that certain communities are widely underserved? Or, it might be a change in people’s perceptions or behavior. Have new statistics quantifying the value of women’s unpaid work changed perceptions about women being critical economic actors? No matter what outcome change is observed, data must be a clear driver of the shift.

Looking for a strong example of a gender data impact story? We found and documented this story from Uruguay, where data measuring women’s unpaid care work led to the creation of a national care policy. But this is just one story. We know that many more exist and have yet to be documented. Join us as we try to discover these untold stories.

Interlude: Why focus on the data to policy impact?

It is possible that the current attention toward data could be short lived. We are almost three years into the 15-year 2030 sustainable development agenda, and we want data to stay in the spotlight for the remaining 12 years.

“We need to give statisticians, data scientists, gender equality advocates, citizens, and policy makers the examples they need to advocate for closing gender data gaps.”

Data2X, in partnership with Open Data Watch and Devex, has opened a call for Gender Data Impact Stories to show how collecting and using gender data can lead to positive outcomes.

But to ensure that decision makers at national governments and international organizations remain focused on the importance of good data and continue to invest in robust data systems that help us understand the lived experiences of all people — men and women — we need to identify stories that demonstrate how good data leads to positive impact. We need to give statisticians, data scientists, gender equality advocates, citizens, and policy makers the examples they need to advocate for closing gender data gaps and using complete data to improve policy.

This is where you and your work come in.

Through the Gender Data Impact project, we will share your stories broadly. We will compile evidence for the importance of collecting and using gender data to improve outcomes, and will make the case for continued investment in data capacity. We will tell some of these stories here, on Devex’s platform, and use these stories to inform the conversation at important moments, such as the upcoming Data for Development Festival and the U.N. World Data Forum. We will also share these stories with those who are working to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, to improve development outcomes, reduce poverty, and achieve gender equality.

Epilogue: The happily ever after

Storytelling has earned its place as one of the most important human traditions. The best lessons in life are transmitted through stories: Fairytales for young children that embed lessons about morality and decency; folk tales that transmit history from generation to generation; and myths that help us better understand the mysteries of life.

The gender data story, too, is underway. It has its heroines and champions — both new and old — as well as its conflicts and resolutions. And while the ending to this story may be unwritten, we hope it will be one where gender data is collected, analyzed, disseminated, and used to improve the lives of women and girls. But to get from beginning to end, we need to complement commitment to gender data with real-life examples of gender data improving lives.

Join us by submitting your gender data impact story here and follow the conversation on Twitter using #GenderDataImpact.

The views in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect Devex's editorial views.

About the authors

  • Emily Courey Pryor

    Emily Courey Pryor is founding executive director of Data2x. Hosted at the U.N. Foundation, Data2x works to accelerate the production and use of gender data to advance gender equality. Emily built and led the U.N. Foundation's program on Women’s Economic Empowerment, and served as senior advisor to the Girl Up campaign. Emily previously worked for Gilead Sciences and for the American Red Cross headquarters.
  • Shaida Badiee

    Shaida Badiee is managing director of Open Data Watch, an NGO focused on monitoring and promoting open data in national statistical offices. She has been an active member of the United Nations Secretary General's advisory group on data revolution, co-chairs the Sustainable Development Solutions Network Data Network, and has played a key role with the startup of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data. Shaida works closely with the Data2x team focused on closing gender data gaps. She brings several decades of experience in managing global development statistics as the long-time director of the World Bank's Development Data Group.