WASHINGTON—Human development lies in giving women what they want, say data analysis experts.
The question then, is what do 3.5 billion women around the world really want?
According to Jim Clifton, CEO of Gallup Consulting, one thing women really want is a good job—with the emphasis on good. Not merely an informal job, but a job where their opinions count, a manager who cares about employees, and where employees’ strengths are used and further developed.
“Human development lies in giving women a great job,” because “when the will of 3.5 billion women changes, so does everything else,” said Clifton at the Evidence and Impact: Closing the Gender Data Gap conference at the Gallup Building in Washington, D.C., on July 19.
The challenge of getting women into these jobs lies in two key factors: gender equality and better data.
Women Foster Growth and Stability
According to World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, gender equality is a viable means to increase growth and competitiveness of countries.
Economies enlarge as women enter the workforce. The trajectory of population growth can also be affected since having a job impacts how soon a woman marries and how many children she has or doesn’t have, Jim told the conference.
Women impact human development in other ways too. Research shows that in Brazil, for example, when the household income is managed by the mother not the father, a child’s chance of survival is 20 percent greater. In Ghana, giving women the same access to fertilizer and other agricultural inputs as men increases maze yields by up to 70 percent.
Women also foster global security. What data exists, shows that women make unique contributions during peace negotiations, then afterward, they help bring peace agreements to life at the community level, noted U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in remarks at the conference.
The United Nations Development Program’s “Human Development Report” shows how elevating the status of women in developing countries can deliver returns for the entire society. The report shows, Clinton noted, that inequality between men and women can reduce a country’s overall progress in health, education, and standard of living by up to 85 percent.
When making the case for elevating the roles of women “we can’t just rely on moral arguments,” said Clinton. Instead, a rigorous case needs to be backed up with solid evidence. The issue is, accurate data about women’s specific roles in their communities is lacking.
Understanding where data falls short and filling those gaps will give governments and others the right premises for making improvements. “If you imagine what women are thinking—and girls—and you’re wrong, the more you and I go out and lead, the worse we will make the world,” said Jim Clifton.
Data provides a metric for making the roles and lives of women and girls quantifiably visible. Once it is visible, investment in development can be guided most effectively. However, in many developing countries, there are sizable gender data gaps.
Reliable, basic data on the lives of women and girls is missing—data like at what age women have their first child, how many hours of paid and unpaid work they do, or if they own the land they farm. Of the 2.3 billion people in the world who have access to the Internet, it is not known how many are women, or how women are using the Internet.
Data on the number of women in parliaments is available, but the number of women in local governments is lacking.
Clinton calls this lack of data “a black hole at the center of our data driven universe,“ which prevents investors in the public, private, or nonprofit sectors who contribute toward women and societies in developing countries from getting the most out of their investments.
Accurate and detailed data would make a difference in diplomacy and development, says Clinton.
Accurate and detailed data would make a difference in diplomacy and development, says Clinton. Data can be used to inform and shape the work of diplomacy, foreign policy goals, and bring women into peace-building and conflict prevention.
“We need more internationally comparable data to examine how women’s contributions affect conflict regions. And only then can we really create frameworks for making sure they are included,” said Clinton.
Models and solutions based on data can also equip decision makers and local governments in poor areas with negotiating tools to bring to other community figureheads.
Concrete action is possible when the scope and scale of a problem is understood, says Clinton. “We keep statistics on everything we care about,” she noted adding that it’s normal to do research and run numbers before making big decisions in business, and government. That’s how we minimize risk and maximize impact, she added.
The United States spends billions of dollars on the development of countries, “We have to be right,” said Gallup’s CEO.
The World Bank cites ineffective data capturing methodologies and a lack of official statistical systems in poor countries, as responsible. More investment in gathering new data and evidence is needed, said Jim.
“If we are serious about narrowing the gender gap and helping more girls and women, then we must get serious about gathering and analyzing data that tell the tale,” said Hillary Clinton.
“We need to capitalize on 21st century tools for collecting and analyzing information like behavioral economics, which looks at the social, cognitive, even emotional factors that affect people’s decisions. Or the vast amount of data that social media provide.”
To help close the gender data gap, the World Bank is partnering with the U.S. government, U.N. Women, and the Organization for Economic and Co-operative Development (OECD), to push for more efforts on employment, education, entrepreneurship, and assets.
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