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Unleashing the Power of Census Data

Reflections from Erin Parker Leonard who attended WBG's Census Day Event.

Erin Parker Leonard

It was fantastic to be invited to take part in the joint event of The Global Institute for Women’s Leadership and the Women’s Budget Group on the 23rd May on Bridging the Gender Data Gap.

As a keen family historian, I have accessed the census many times albeit going back 100+ years ago and mostly to uncover historical facts about my ancestors. A Chartist, illegitimate children, run away wives, and some very strong female ancestors have been part of my thrilling discoveries!

Of course, we can’t go into such detail with the 2021 census, but I hadn’t even considered the amount of data that we could draw from the current census to highlight and drive women’s issues.

After the brilliant panel discussion with some fantastically inspiring speakers, a smaller group of us went upstairs to get to some business. The introduction from Liz made me think, “how do we know what we want to find out?”

Before anything else, we need to learn what information is available to draw from. What were the questions asked in the Census and what are the datasets? The day really helped us as delegates learn from the experts and then from each other in an experiential way. Very useful for me as someone who learns from doing!

Once we had the basics down, I started to think about “how can the data then be interpreted to benefit women and bring about changes so urgently needed in the step to equality?” Above all else, we need women at the heart of that analysis. We need women crunching the numbers and presenting the data.

I am a local Councillor and so it is important that I understand as best I can the needs of my ward and the community that I am part of. Being part of the programme of events that day I have learnt how to drill down further and to draw out some really important information. One example was the ability to compare young carers across my borough by ward. This meant I had a better picture regarding how many young carers we have in my ward of Killingworth and how it compares to all the other wards. This can then influence decisions based on young carer support and where best to target provision for them. This session also brought to my attention the need to ask questions in the right ways to get more out of our research and to make it meaningful.

As chair of an active Women’s Branch here in North Tyneside the group has spoken many times about the importance of recording women’s voices in amongst a very heavily male dominated history. Who knew that a woman (Elizabeth Magie) invented monopoly? We automatically think of the Parker brothers!

Thinking of next steps

It would be great to see some smaller working groups meeting in person around the country to crunch some numbers and get meaningful data to use to campaign and lobby for positive changes to policy and legislation. This could then be recorded on an interactive map of the UK to have the information in one central place to be easily accessed and added to.

I want to thank the Women’s Budget Group and the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership for a great event. Thanks to WBG for listening to us on the day and for agreeing to deliver some follow-up training to deepen our knowledge and empower us further.

Erin Parker Leonard – Labour Councillor and Chair of Women’s Branch
As a local councillor, Erin has championed Women’s issues and opportunities for Young People in particular. She has a background in Youth Homelessness and working with young people. She volunteers with 50:50 parliament as a representative for the LGBTQ+ community, has campaigned on parental rights and is passionate about getting more women into politics in a meaningful way. She chair their very successful Women’s branch and together they have achieved a lot for local women in politics. She is also a white ribbon champion.

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