Publication date: 
January, 2014

Good data are essential for smart policy, and the lack of reliable data has hindered progress on gender equality and women’s empowerment. Evidence-based policy to increase gains for women and girls was a priority for U.S. Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton, who announced the creation of Data2X in 2012. The initiative—powered by the United Nations Foundation, with support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—is a platform for partners to work together on gender data.

“Gender data” are data disaggregated by sex, such as primary school enrollment rates for girls and boys, as well as data that affect women and girls exclusively or primarily, such as maternal mortality rates.

Today, we have only a partial snapshot of the lives of women and girls and the constraints they face because gender data are limited, especially in developing countries. We have no data or bad data on issues that disproportionately affect women and girls but that society does not highly value. Gender biases both impede and distort data collection.

These data would make it possible to determine the size and nature of social and economic problems and opportunities as well as the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of alternative policies. For example: How many girls are married before the age of 18? What explains gender wage gaps? How can extension services reach more women farmers? Are mobile payments to poor mothers more cost-effective than traditional cash transfers? Good data can provide valid answers to these questions.

As a first step, Data2X set out to identify key gaps in gender data based on need, population coverage, and policy relevance. We identified 28 gaps across five domains: health, education, economic opportunities, political participation, and human security.

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