Bringing gender to the forefront of statistics

UN Photo/Martine Perret

Since gender mainstreaming was identified as a global strategy in 1995, specific actions have been taken to improve statistics to properly measure and monitor gender-relevant issues.

Within DESA, the Statistics Division coordinates and implements the Global Gender Statistics Programme, aimed at developing statistical methods and standards to enhance national statistical offices’ capacities in all stages of collection, production and dissemination of gender statistics.

Gender is a socially constructed concept used to attribute differences associated with being female or male. Gender statistics are defined as statistics that adequately reflect differences and inequalities between the situation of women and men in all areas of life.

Gender statistics are useful in addressing the multi-level perspectives of power relations and capture the realities and experiences of women and men. Gender statistics include all domains of statistics as well as a variety of topics that are associated mainly with women’s well-being such as unpaid work, violence against women, or statistics on family-work balance.

The need to integrate a gender perspective into statistics is imperative to ensure the full coverage of gender issues is taken into account in national statistics, and to properly inform policy and decision makers. Data are used to develop and monitor policies and programmes oriented toward increased gender equality and empowerment of women.

Incorporating a gender perspective into statistics also entails reviewing questionnaires and surveys as well as working with focus groups in order to ensure that statistical surveys on all issues have country-specific gender-relevant content. Addressing the limitations of data collection based on concepts and methods that are not gender-sensitive is essential in further developing and maintaining the integrity of gender statistics.

Many conditions and institutional arrangements need to be in place for a country to be able to produce reliable gender statistics. Among them, a gender statistics unit (or focal points) in National Statistical Offices plays a key role in providing gender sensitization training as well as specific training to avoid gender bias in data collection.

Gender statistics units provide critical information for women’s advocates, policy-makers, and NGOs, thus facilitating communication between the producers and some of the end users of gender statistics. Additionally, they assist data users and help them understand the uses of existing statistics that may not have been considered gender statistics. Gender Statistics units are key in providing the necessary data to monitor and assess the status of women and men in a country.

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