State Department, World Bank launch drives to find data on women, “hiding in plain sight”

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If you’ve ever wondered how approaches to fighting AIDS could include an anti-prostitution oath, a ban on funding to organizations offering information on safe abortion and an emphasis on abstinence until marriage, here’s a humbling thought: maybe there just wasn’t enough data to indicate whether those approaches were, perhaps, counterproductive.

Do you want international data on how much less women are paid than men? Sorry, World Bank President Jim Kim Yong Kim told an audience at a joint Gallup and State Department event today, you won’t find it on the World Bank web site. The data gap on women’s wellbeing extends to  “even seemingly simple data on births and deaths,” Kim said. It’s hard to collect information on maternal mortality when an untold number of women don’t make it too healthcare facilities.

The questions continued, as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton followed Kim at the podium. How old are women when they have their first child? How many hours of paid and unpaid work do women do? Do they own the land they farm?

“We can’t just rely on moral arguments,” she said. If that’s a sad state of affairs, on the bright side, she pointed out: “this is really an exciting time for data.”

Data, exciting? Sure, she said, between companies cataloguing transactions, census data, mobile phone tracking, tweets . . . enough data is generated annually to fill 57 billion 32 gb iPads.

“What are we doing with it?” Clinton asked. “We should run the numbers.”

She and Kim promised to follow up on their words at the event Evidence and Impact: Closing the Gender Gap. Kim, with a new gender data portal on the Bank’s web site and Clinton with an initiative to develop standards to train in gender-sensitive data collection and publish a road map of gaps to be filled. A report on progress will come, she said, in a year.

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