Skip to content

Blog Post

Bridging the Gender Data Gap

Reflections from Ilaria Esposito who attended WBG's Census Day Event

Ilaria Esposito

I have been involved in the field of gender equality since a young age, serving as an external representative of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. Additionally, I was part of the Council of Europe Gender Equality Commission for quite some time, where I acted as a rapporteur on gender equality. One of my responsibilities was to promote the mainstreaming of gender in the youth sector of the Council of Europe, which also involved advocating for gender budgeting. Thanks to these changes, I was able to bring my newborn babies to several meetings.

As a human rights education trainer and consultant, gender equality and gender-related issues hold a prominent place in the training I conduct. When I received an invitation to the event, I was filled with hope for progress, reflecting on my experience as a rapporteur.

To me, the advancement of gender equality as a fundamental human right is of utmost importance. Gender equality encompasses the equal rights of women and men, girls and boys, ensuring their equal visibility, empowerment, responsibility, and participation in all public and private life aspects. It also involves equitable access to and distribution of resources between women and men.

I envision a society where women and men enjoy equal rights and opportunities, and where the behaviours, aspirations, wishes, and needs of both genders are equally valued and supported.

Due to the lack of comprehensive and disaggregated data on the experiences of girls and women, we face a gender data gap that makes it difficult to measure progress towards gender equality accurately and to design policies and programs that effectively address gender-related issues. This has been an aspect that I had to focus on extensively in my past experiences.

I was eager to hear about the societal advancements made in reducing the gender data gap. However, what became clear to me is that there continues to be a significant gap in accurate and comprehensive data across various areas such as education, health and safety, employment, and political representation. As highlighted by Caroline Criado-Perez OBE, acclaimed author of ‘Invisible Women: Exposing data bias in a world designed for Men’, seatbelt designs still primarily consider the male body structure.

However, I was captivated by the inputs of like-minded women during the panel and the moderation was genuinely inspiring, as was the ongoing research conducted by the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at KCL, which aims to measure and map gender equality in the UK. It is exciting to learn that this research will contribute to narrowing the gender data gap in the UK and that we can harness this data to work on progress in our local communities.

So which data can help bridge the gender data gap?

Gender identity: we have access to not only data on the sex of respondents (male or female). We are recognising data on gender identity, particularly those who do not identify as male or female. By adding a variable in the survey, the census can provide a more accurate picture of the gender diversity within the population.

Are gender roles and responsibilities changing? This is also an area where Census Data can give us a picture of how society changes over time. For example, it can help us identify changes in the number of female-headed households or track changes in the division of labour within homes by collecting household composition data.

We can further use the Census to identify gender disparities in education by looking at differences in enrolment, completion, and educational attainment. What are the areas where girls and women are being left behind? Can we use the data to design policies and programs that address these disparities? Indeed, we can.

An issue dear to my heart is the gender wage gap. Unfortunately, it is difficult to measure and continues to be a persistent issue in many countries. By examining information on workers’ occupations, industries, and earnings, we can measure the gender wage gap across different sectors and professions and identify actions to help close these gaps.

And what about data on gender-based violence? Are we able to access such datasets? Perhaps, in the future, as gender equality moves from vision to reality, we will feel safe and confident to report what happens around us

What can we do with the available data?​ ​Censuses have been used for centuries to help governments plan and allocate resources, and we can use it as a key tool for collecting gender data. The most recent census was conducted in 2021, so this is our chance to harness the potential of census data for gender equality. I had never used Census Data before, but after a day of training, I believe it is a crucial tool for bridging the gender data gap by collecting data on a range of demographic and social characteristics such as age, sex, education, employment​, and other gender-relevant data​. ​

While we are able to access more data, effectively analysing it requires skills which the Women’s Budget Group shared with participants during the training. Although I can’t say I am an expert on data analysis just yet, since the training, I have embarked on different refresher courses and delved into new tools like Power BI to make sure I can tell stories with data that will change how gender equality is mainstreamed in our local community.

Ilaria Esposito – Start Easy is a consulting agency working in the social economy, mainstreaming human rights, sustainable development and gender equality. We are a team of professionals who offer their knowledge, skills and experience to support the planning and management of projects worldwide. We support and mentor our clients to thrive and become self-sustainable through International, national and local funding. We offer customised project design and management solutions to implement socio-economic and cultural interventions arising from individuals, businesses, public administrations and non-profit organisations.


Related content