This blog explores the concept of the gender data gap and how it perpetuates structural discrimination against women in several areas.
“Seeing men as the human default is fundamental to the structure of human society,” writes Caroline Criado Perez in her introduction of her book “Invisible Women” about gender data gaps in the personal, professional, and everyday life of women.
An integral aspect of the broader discourse on gender equality pertains to the structural components that pervade various domains of society. Women are often rendered “invisible”, signifying that societal structures have predominantly been constructed in favor of or exclusively for men.
In this regard, we seek to look through the precise manner in which these structures and the gendered data gap in certain sectors can impinge upon the safety of women. Specifically, we are concerned with how these structural elements may engender or exacerbate risks and hazards that disproportionately affect women.
In other words, how does the structural discrimination of women work through the gender data gap?
The gender data gap refers to the lack of adequate and accurate data on the experiences, needs, and contributions of different genders. It results from various factors, including systemic discrimination, biases, and gender stereotypes that lead to the under-representation or exclusion of women, non-binary individuals, and other marginalized genders in data collection, analysis, and reporting. This gap makes it challenging to identify and address gender inequalities, track progress toward gender equality, and design policies and programs that are effective and inclusive.
This gendered data gap has exerted a profound influence on our collective cultural narratives, resulting in an 'absent presence' of women in the stories we tell and the traditions we uphold. This pattern of neglect and exclusion has perpetuated systemic inequalities and engendered ongoing challenges for women, both in terms of their visibility and recognition and their safety.
The paucity of data concerning women and girls has impeded efforts to inform policy decisions, monitor progress, and hold stakeholders accountable. Data can serve as a potent instrument in the hands of advocates for women's rights. The UN Women report from 2022 highlights the significance of gender data gaps and their impact on achieving gender equality and sustainable development. The report emphasizes that gender data is critical for assessing progress toward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The report identifies several areas where gender data gaps exist, including education, health, political participation, economic empowerment, and violence against women indicating the structural discrimination of women taking place in several sectors.
Data is a critical role in catalyzing policymakers into action, mobilizing investments, and demonstrating the efficacy of interventions. Therefore, bridging the gender data gap is a vital step in promoting gender equality and women's empowerment.
The gender data gap is a worldwide issue that affects policymaking and resource allocation, as well as the design and implementation of programs aimed at reducing gender inequalities.
For many years, gender mainstreaming aims to eliminate discrimination against women by including a gender perspective in all policies and programs. However, gender awareness shouldn’t be limited to focusing only on women. Attention should also be given to examining gender-specific consequences in traditionally male-dominated areas such as military and security issues. It is this holistic approach that allows structural discrimination to be identified and confronted without marginalization that allows the gender data gap to be seen from a boader point of view.
The UN Statistics Division formed the IAEG-GS in 2006 and provided yet another framework to address biased data against women. They launched the Global Gender Statistics Programme to promote gender-specific data dissemination and accessibility. The UN, as mentioned above, also publishes the World's Women Report every five years to track global equality.
Medical research and vehicle safety are two areas that showcase the gender data gap. Traditional medical research has often focused on men, leading to gender biases in diagnosis and treatment. Meanwhile, the lack of female dummies in safety tests by car manufacturers leads to inadequate vehicle safety measures for women.
Gender-sensitive medicine considers biological and social differences between men and women in research and policy. These differences impact how individuals experience and respond to illness. However, the gender data gap poses a challenge to gender-sensitive medicine
Thus, gender plays a vital role in health, but has been largely ignored in medicine. Women are often undertreated and undertested for chronic pain, with their pain attributed to emotional or psychological factors. This distrust of women's pain is rooted in historical and societal stereotypes. These biases are still present in current biomedical knowledge and lead to inadequate pain management for women. Addressing gender in medicine is crucial to achieving equity and equality in healthcare.
Verity Now, a US-based campaign group aiming to achieve equity in vehicle safety, reports that women are at a significantly higher risk of injury and death in vehicle crashes. Specifically, women are 73% more likely to be injured and 17% more likely to die in a crash than men. This disparity is due, in part, to the fact that safety tests conducted by car manufacturers primarily use test dummies modelled on the average male body, while female dummies are not mandated for these tests by regulators.
Standardization is a critical aspect of workplace safety. It ensures that safety protocols and measures are consistent across different environments, which is essential for maintaining a safe and healthy work environment. However, standardization can have implications for workplace safety when safety protocols are designed without taking into account the different needs and characteristics of different workers and their genders.
Many industries, such as construction and manufacturing, are male-dominated, and safety protocols are often designed with male workers in mind. For example, personal protective equipment (PPE) is typically designed to fit men, which can be a significant problem for women who work in these industries.
The lack of consideration for female workers in safety protocols is a serious issue. To address this issue, it is crucial to incorporate diversity and inclusivity into workplace safety protocols. Safety measures should be designed with the needs of all workers in mind, regardless of their gender or other characteristics. This can be achieved through better representation of women in safety testing and research, as well as the development of safety protocols that are adaptable to different body types and sizes. Ultimately, ensuring that workplace safety measures are inclusive and considerate of all workers will lead to a safer work environment and minimize partial structural discrimination which is based on gender biases.
Gender equality in the workplace isn't just equal pay - it includes acknowledging the challenges and barriers that women face, the benefits of a diverse workforce, and strategies for creating a more inclusive workplace culture.
The persistent issue of the gender pay gap is still alive globally. Through exploring its historical context, current statistics, and potential solutions, we aim to raise awareness and spark conversations that can drive change toward a more equitable and just society.