Washington — The world may be awash in data — thanks to modern technology — but still more needs to be collected to effectively meet the needs of women and promote gender equality, says Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
For too many countries, Clinton said July 19 at Gallup Inc. headquarters in Washington, reliable data is lacking on even the basic facts about the lives of women and girls. “It keeps us from fully realizing how advancing the status of women affects women, their families, their communities, their countries and the rest of us. And it keeps those of us looking to close the gender gap from getting the most out of our investments from either the public or the private or the not-for-profit sector,” she said.
To help correct the “gender data gap,” Clinton announced a State Department initiative called “Data 2X.”
With contributions from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Data 2X will develop new curriculum standards to ensure data producers and users train in gender-sensitive techniques, Clinton said. Working with key data organizations, such as the United Nations, the World Bank, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the research company Gallup Inc., the project will “publish a road map on how we together can fill priority gaps in gender-sensitive data as quickly as possible,” Clinton said.
Joining Clinton were Gallup Chief Executive Officer and Chairman Jim Clifton and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim.
Kim, citing “appalling gaps” in data on women by country, announced the launch of the World Bank’s efforts to provide more complete gender data via a portal that will be a part of its Open Data Initiative. Visitors to the gender data portal will be able to access data from the world development indicators, national statistics agencies and U.N. databases. Results will be posted from surveys, analytic work and reference materials covering girls' and women's employment, access to productive activities, education, health, public life and decisionmaking, as well as human rights and demographic outcomes.
“The portal's data visualization tool allows users to interact with the data,” Kim said, “and we'll keep it updated and respond to feedback.” He called the initiative “an important step forward, bringing together the multiplicity of data sources on gender and allowing anyone with an Internet connection to see how patterns are evolving across countries and regions over time.” Visitors will also be able to access data on World Bank operations and financing, he said.
Clinton emphasized the need to be “thoughtful and careful” about protecting the information collected. “We need the data,” she said, “but we have to respect the rights of the people behind the data.” Even so, the initiatives are a “historic opportunity to improve the lives of billions of people.”
Better data could potentially help women and girls in a wide variety of areas, Clinton and Kim said, including urban planning, the prevention of sexual violence against children, tracking how many women are employed and in what kinds of work, measuring the performance of girls in school, and providing women farmers with seed, fertilizer and financing.
“Data not only measures progress, it inspires it,” Clinton said. “As we have learned in this country, what gets measured gets done. Once you start measuring problems, people are more inclined to take action to fix them because nobody wants to end up at the bottom of a list of rankings. So data are critical on both sides of the question: knowing what to do and how to do it.”