Hillary Clinton spurs ‘gender data revolution’

December 15, 2014, 8:03 PM UTC
Photograph by Craig Warga

There’s not much news in Hillary Clinton getting on a stage to champion women and girls. The former First Lady turned former Secretary of State turned rumored presidential candidate has made the economic progress of women a priority throughout her career. Yet after years of finding her efforts being met with mostly indifference, Clinton is perfecting her approach.

On Monday, Clinton announced six new partnerships with global organizations to power a “gender data revolution.” Data2X, an initiative announced by Clinton in 2012, is working to use data to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment. An initiative led by the United Nations Foundation with support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Clinton Foundation, Data2x provides a platform for global leaders to foster greater collaboration on the topic of gender data in global development. Gender data around the world on key topics remains limited, and Data2x is focused on creating partnerships that will paint a full picture of the lives of women and girls. Moreover, without the right data, Clinton feels that you can’t make the case for why public policies around the world need to change.

“I got tired of seeing otherwise thoughtful people smile and nod when I raised these issues [women and girls],” said Clinton at an event at Bloomberg Philanthropies in New York. “Foreign leaders, business executives, even senior officials in our own government. You can just see the wheels turning, like, ‘Oh right, I knew she was going to raise women and girls. I will just smile, it will pass and then we’ll talk about really important things.’ Over and over again this was an experience I had.”

Data2x has identified 28 gaps in data on women across health, education, economic opportunities, political participation and human security. Several years ago in India, for example, only 6% of women were officially counted as employed. After further research, it was discovered that women do six hours of unpaid work on average outside of the traditional economy every day. If leaders in India brought these women into the paid economy at the same level as men, the country’s GDP would increase by $1.7 trillion.

This, says Clinton, is just one of countless ways that the numbers can support a case for a shift in how leaders are addressing the issues. The International Labour Organization, the World Bank and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations are working specifically to help implement news definitions of work and employment with problems like the one in India in mind.

“If you don’t measure, you can’t manage. You can’t understand what the problem is,” said Clinton. “It’s not enough any longer to make the case on moral rights grounds…We are not making the progress we should be if that is the principle, and in sometimes exclusive, argument that we are making.”

Other new partnerships through Data2x include an effort to get more women access to financial services. There is an estimated $300 billion credit shortage for women-owned companies in emerging economies, and the Global Banking Alliance for Women along with the International American Development Bank are collaborating to provide sex-disaggregated data by banks around the world.

Clinton announced the news partnerships along with former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, United Nations Foundation President and CEO Kathy Calvin, and her daughter Chelsea Clinton. Prior to addressing the crowd, Bloomberg shared that a few years ago Bloomberg Philanthropies started working to address maternal deaths in Tanzania. Suffering from one of the highest maternal death rates in the world, Bloomberg dove into the numbers and discovered that there is one doctor for every 50,000 people. Upgrading health facilities and training non-physicians to provide emergency care create more opportunities for Tanzanian women to get the care they need.

“There are so many other opportunities to improve lives that the world is not effectively tracking because we don’t have that data,” he said. “If you get the data, you can really target your resources and make a big difference.”

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