The Power of Parity and Humanising Data

Rwanda, Kigali has taken milestone steps to raise the African woman’s banner to whole new levels. With this trend, yet another data milestone has been impressed for all African governments—at least those whose priority is economic development.

Recalling some key topics at the 27th African Union Summit (held in Kigali,Rwanda), closing the gender data gap in Sub-saharan Africa was of particular interest as implied by the conference’s theme, ‘African Year of Human Rights, with a particular focus on the Rights of Women’. This paints a potential investment data-mine of how African governments, civil societies and private sector entities could reap big.

However, one key area of concern was the slow pace at achieving global gender parity that has taken 81years to reach. This is narrowed down to gender parity in the workplace with, 75 years to account for equal pay and, 30 years to account for political positions. This slow progression has no easy answers and carries no panacea that can change the situation. Yet, the gender data gaps remain pervasive, they are particularly acute when it comes to measuring violence against women, access to income, social protection and also when it comes to measuring the quality and quantity of women’s work. 

One major solution, left undiscussed is the use of data as one of the binding solutions to the snail-paced progress toward bridging the gender gap in Africa. Numerous strides have been made to bridge the gender gap in ‘education, health, security, voice, movement’ but data analytics have not been properly utilised as a highway to gender parity. 

Women have a high presence of participation in the informal sector, but much of their economic and financial activities remain ‘invisible’ when it comes down to placing a human face to the available data. Even though women are about the same population as men at 101.8 men for every 100 women (data from the UN) but, they only contribute 37% to GDP, globally—a hindrance attributed to the lack the equal rights, access to opportunities and representation both in the workplace and the society. This is a pointer to why the existing gender data may look good at face value, but the challenge of humanising it remains at par, an obstruction to accelerating gender parity.

Some of the ways of closing the gap are; financial inclusion at a major level in both emerging and developed economies. Interventions would point to policies that support universal access to savings, credit accounts, digital and mobile platforms, increasing affordability of services and commodities, simple digital literacy, having a mobile phone, knowing how to use it and finally, connecting with a public or private financial institution that  provides access to that account.

While there are several barriers facing women and girls, the fact is that, there will be no way to address gender parity without access to good data. There is need for more data, there is a clear call for good data and it is a constant challenge when it comes to gender parity. Supplying data is a constant challenge as there is need to collect it, analyse it and provide it for those that need to use it. It is a matter of supply and demand and that is critical to the ability to respond to the incredible challenges across Africa.

Data Impact on the Economy

In May 2016, the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), released a discussion paper, ‘Delivering the Power of Parity: Toward a more Gender-Equal society.’ The paper is a comprehensive attempt that estimates the size of the economic potential of narrowing and bridging the gender gap in 95 countries in 15 major areas especially in the line of work. To understand the economic potential of bridging the gender gap better, different scenarios were developed.

The result was an amount of, “$12 trillion in 2025 if all countries match the fastest historical rate of progress in their region. That represents an 11 percent boost to GDP above a business-as-usual scenario.” The research correlates workplace gender dynamics to those of society and captures that in their Gender Parity Score. The MGI’s data analytics indicate that capturing the $12 trillion GDP opportunity would require regions around the world to raise their GPS (Gender Parity Score) by at least 8% to 21% by 2025.

This involves a combustive move toward the involvement of women at full potential. This is when women participation in labour markets correlates identically to men in terms of, the same participation rate, hours of work, sector and skill mix of employment. Therefore, with this approach, fully closing the data gap could produce a real incremental value of up to 21% of additional global economic output anywhere, across the globe, by 2025.

Also, true parity will be quite hard to reach in a complex world that presents, multi-faceted issues. This then requires a lot of change in society within both the public and private sectors and also in terms of individual behaviour and the choices of the work that people will pursue. Humanising data would create a mass leap that simultaneously aims for the achievement of gender parity as long as; both the public and private sector objectives are aligned and included in real concrete programs for action and development agendas. 

The correlation between gender equality at work and gender equality in the society is very strong. The two go hand in hand and for this reason, Africans can no longer limit themselves by looking at only employee participation or even education as drivers to achieving gender parity—focus needs to be directed at all factors in society that might limit girls and women participation across every sphere of society. 

Data Humanisation 

Building several data ecosystems within communities, is critical in knowing where to place investments for all kinds of things. This is how venture capitalists, angel investors, philanthropists know to make investments in order to make a difference. Without data, significant investments in closing the gender data gap are next to fruitless. 

Gender statistics are imperative in order to deliver effective policies and programmes that would transform the lives of all children, women and men. 

According to the MGI’s research, data is humanised when they state that, “In secondary education, for example, 58 million more girls and 60 million more boys would need to be enrolled in schools over and above the business- as-usual scenario to raise enrolment rates in line with the SDGs. Some 224 million additional women would need access to formal financial services, while 29 million to 57 million working women, and an equivalent number of men, in the global labour force will need to be covered by paid family leave. Some 445 million more people would need improved access to safe water supplies, an important lever for reducing the unpaid care work performed by women in developing countries.” 

Realising the full potential for women and children is an ambitious agenda and will require collaborative action between governments, the private sector and many NGOs. Yet, for Africa, the prioritisation of data as a major contributor to gender parity is long overdue.

Feeling Data Inspired? 

In the midst of all the mantra and data buzz, the hook is found in looking to making partnerships that collect and analyse data that is aggregated by sex and age and societal behaviour. 

That is why, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, announced their intentions of pouring  $80Million in data investment as a means to attaining gender parity. The end goal—to empower women who will then empower societies.

Melinda Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said that, “We are going to invest 80Million dollars to help close some of the data gaps that exist and help further this commitment that that the 193 leaders made when they ratified the SDGs.”

She attributed the progress made at the previous Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), especially in the Maternal and Child mortality agenda, to the presence of systems that could measure and count and see progress. Gender parity therefore, requires that each African region develops patterns where they think of data ecosystems as a means to project ambition and measurable progress as important factors to attaining gender parity at both the workplace and society.

Since these things go hand in hand, collaboration between gender for the society and gender for the economy, should be a non-negotiable. While this change is ambitious, it is achievable. But with focused and targeted interventions that are scalable, progress can be made. 

Partnership and coordination are absolutely critical to any progress, pooling all resources needed for gender parity, means that governments, private sector and civil society make use of all the resources available. Data investment for gender parity in Africa carries business sense, it comes from business principles, all businesses around the world are collecting data because it helps them know where to make investments.

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Twitter: @GloriaIribagiza

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