Emily Courey Pryor, executive director of Data2X*, is co-author of this piece.
Unlocking economic opportunities for women and safeguarding their rights has always been a human rights imperative. It is also smart policy and good for business. Over 25 years ago, governments around the world committed to a comprehensive blueprint for women’s empowerment in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and called on the private sector and civil society to help them drive change. Today, after a year that crushed women in the workforce, exacerbated social injustice, and rolled back progress on gender equality by a generation, the urgent need for action is palpable. Significant investments are required to reverse the dangerous COVID-19-driven trendlines in access to health services and proliferation of gender-based violence, to address mounting challenges for women around childcare and unpaid work and to catalyze women’s economic empowerment in order to drive global economic recovery.
The COVID-19 pandemic also catalyzed a global reckoning around the role and responsibility of companies, foundations and governments to address the world’s most critical challenges. Employees, consumers and citizens the world over are demanding change. They want action instead of words and accountability over empty promises.
Amidst growing calls for urgent action, we are approaching the Generation Equality Forum, a global gathering for gender equality convened by UN Women and co-hosted by the governments of Mexico and France in partnership with civil society and youth. The Forum kicked off in Mexico City in March and will culminate in Paris at the end of June. Yet the Forum is more than an event – it is envisioned as the catalyst for a sustained movement to galvanize all stakeholders to deliver “immediate and irreversible” progress on gender equality worldwide.
Leaders across sectors are being urged to make solid commitments to gender equality—commitments of new funds, new policies and new programs that are “meaningful and measurable” and tangibly improve the livelihoods of women and girls worldwide. To accomplish that goal and achieve the outcomes that will power a post-COVID-19 economy and drive transformative change in laws, policies, institutions and behaviors, powerful commitments must be informed by quality, policy-relevant data.
Data is an illuminator of inequality, a catalyst for action and a benchmark for measuring progress. More importantly, without a foundation of quality data, the most well-intentioned commitment will never achieve its intended result. We need data to make informed decisions and track if those decisions are improving lives. Moreover, we need gender-disaggregated data that breaks down differences in impact across genders and reveals inequality so that we can better tackle it.
All stakeholders, including governments, businesses, foundations and civil society leaders alike, must commit to using gender data to guide their decision-making and their commitment-making. This requires:
- Collecting the data required to ground commitments in fact and support the establishment of baseline data, data tracking and analysis;
- Disaggregating the data to draw out the nuances of the unique circumstances facing women and girls;
- Financing the data to close data gaps and support the development of improved methodologies for data collection;
- Publishing the data on which commitments are based to ensure accountability for tangible progress; and
- Using the data to inform evidence-based decision-making.
In today’s world, splashy initiatives, sexy partnerships and bold headlines no longer cut it. For companies and organizations searching for ways to be authentic and make an impact, it’s time to back up words with actions—and the numbers to match.
*Data2x is an APCO Client