Gender Equality as a Force Multiplier for the 2030 Agenda

If you were tasked with tackling the world’s greatest challenges, would you attempt to do so with one hand tied behind your back? Gender Equality is not just a specific Sustainable Development Goal (SDG #5), but gender inequality undercuts capacity and slows the rate at which the world can achieve the other goals in the UN’s 2030 Agenda.

If you were tasked with tackling the world’s greatest challenges, would you attempt to do so with one hand tied behind your back? Gender Equality is not just a specific Sustainable Development Goal (SDG #5), but gender inequality undercuts capacity and slows the rate at which the world can achieve the other goals in the UN’s 2030 Agenda. Gender inequality means untapped talent, an unequal distribution of influence, and in some cases a fear of changes to existing power structures. Progress toward increased gender equality meanwhile, is an opportunity to release a large store of untapped potential towards achieving all other SDGs. As such, advancements in gender equality, female empowerment, and increased participation by women can be an accelerant, or a force multiplier, for achieving the SDGs by 2030.

Unfortunately, realising gender equality requires systematically recording progress and making it visible through information and data. And, although advocates have been calling for a Gender Data Revolution since the launch of the SDGs in 2015, today, UN estimates suggest that just 31 per cent of the data needed to monitor progress on the SDGs for women and girls is available.

To explore how the tech community can strengthen the gender data ecosystem, 2030Vision recently convened panel discussions with UN Women, feminist and social sector organisations and members of the tech community. These conversations included the launch of a new report commissioned by Facebook and authored by gender researchers Ladysmith. In their report, Ladysmith found that ‘gender data gaps’ still exist in a wide range of areas that are critical for achieving the SDGs. Areas no less important than climate change and migration, health care, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) disciplines, family life, gender-based discrimination online, informal labor, and shifting social and cultural norms.

For technology and other companies committed to contributing to the SDGs, there is a strong moral and social imperative – aside from the estimated $12 trillion global opportunity - to work with governments and civil society to take action in this area and to ‘leave no-one behind’. By identifying and filling ‘gender data gaps’, companies will be helping to:

  • ensure the fair and efficient allocation of resources;
  • enable the design of more effective products, services, policies and programs;
  • ensure that organisations are accountable for their pledges; and
  • track progress on gender equality and other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Technology to address gender data gaps

Digital technology, while not a silver bullet, is uniquely positioned to multiply the efforts of others and so help scale solutions to drive progress on gender equality and other SDGs. Ladysmith’s report, commissioned by Facebook, identifies four broad contributions the tech community could make to help to address gender data gaps.

  1. First, the authors suggest that technology companies could share their own data in a privacy-preserved manner. Digital trace data from social media platforms, video games and mobile phones could help researchers answer new questions relating to how inequalities are produced, sustained and overcome. Similarly, sharing sex-disaggregated data on recruitment, promotions and retention at tech companies, could allow greater understanding of what interventions are effective to retain and advance women in STEM, as well as what the barriers are.
  2. Tech companies could use their computational power and human problem solving capabilities to process and visualise new insights from existing datasets. Through this sort of analysis, it may be possible to elucidate the gendered impacts of climate change, for example.
  3. Third, the tech community could partner with feminist organisations and the wider social sector to co-develop relevant products and tools. Bringing feminist partners into the design process from the outset, eliminates the need to make assumptions about their needs and makes it more likely a project will result in positive advances in gender equality.
  4. Finally, the authors call on technology companies to contribute resources to strengthen the capacity of feminist and women’s organizations to make use of datasets. Tech companies could help to build capacity by, for example, supporting non-profits that generate interest among girls in data-science. By supporting organisations like Girls who Code, Girl Develop It and Tech Girlz they could increase the number of data scientists “who can work competently and passionately in partnership with social organizations”.

Facebook to strengthen the gender data ecosystem

In recognition of both the opportunity and responsibility that follow from their scale and reach, Facebook has set up Project 17, an internal initiative to identify opportunities and partnerships through which they can drive progress on the SDGs. Through this program – and in direct response to Ladysmith’s report - they seek to make meaningful contributions towards implementing the SDGs with an initial focus on gender data.

Through its focus to increase availability and use of gender data, Facebook have committed to:

Facebook have committed to leveraging their resources and working with partners to make meaningful and impactful contributions towards gender equality initially. Longer term they might expand the focus and include other SDGs and focus areas too. Just as Ladysmith’s report highlights the importance of gender equality advocates and technology companies “sitting at the same table” to tackle gender inequality, so partnerships and dialogue will also be critical enablers for achieving other SDGs.

The importance of technology partnerships

Like gender equality, technology also has a critical catalysing role to play towards achieving the SDGs. 2030Vision is committed to forming partnerships around the thoughtful application of technology in pursuit of accelerated progress on the global goals. To achieve the SDGs by 2030, 2030Vision believes that all tech companies must form stronger and closer partnerships with social and environmental development organisations. This is because a deep understanding of the associated challenges that might benefit from technology solutions is a critical component of achieving any of the goals. Partnerships additionally enable the efficient sharing of best practices, connect available resources with development needs, and promote open conversations on both individual priorities and shared goals for multi-organization projects. By working together, we can harness both gender equality and technology as force multipliers towards achieving more of the SDGs, faster.

Further reading

  • The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) recently released the “Women and Girls in Internal Displacement” report, which presents the first global, regional, and national estimates of the number of women and girls living in a situation of internal displacement as a result of conflict and violence.
  • Data2X released a new report last week, “Mapping Gender Data Gaps: An SDG Era Update” that highlights gender data gaps across the domains of health, education, economic opportunity, public participation, human security, and environment. It emphasizes the need for investment across all parts of the data collection system.
  • Equal Measures 2030 launched an SDG Gender Index, which scored and ranked 129 countries on 51 gender equality issues. They host this and their predictions of progress through 2030 on the Gender Advocates Data Hub.
  • UN Women just launched the “Women’s Rights in Review 25 years after Beijing” which presents data to examine progress on the Beijing Platform for Action along six themes that align with the SDGs.
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