Gender Statistics

What are Gender Statistics?  

Gender statistics reflect the lived realities of women and men in all areas of life. They are indispensable tools for developing evidence-based policies and solutions to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment. While data and statistics are often used interchangeably in everyday conversation, there is an important difference between the two terms: “Data” refers to the raw quantities such as a person’s sex, age, income etc. while “statistics” are the results of data analysis. In other words, statistics help to make sense of raw data through collection, compilation, analysis and presentation of data. 

Gender Data Gaps and Challenges

Gender statistics help to build evidence on the drivers and consequences of gender inequality and can be used to inform policies to achieve gender equality. Yet, the absence of adequate data can impede progress in creating informed and effective policies. Gender data gaps can be linked to three challenges:

  • Weak policy space, legal and financial environments are barriers to progress

    In many countries, the production of gender statistics is not specified in statistics laws and policies, and as a result the sector is under-prioritized and under-funded in national budgets. Out of 126 countries with data, only 15 per cent have specific legislation requiring the National Statistical Systems (NSS) to conduct specialized gender-based surveys, and only 13 per cent have a regular dedicated budget for gender statistics. A lack of political will, limited resources and low awareness of the importance of data for gender equality lead to a weak policy space to monitor the SDGs.

  • Technical and financial challenges limit the production of gender statistics

    The production of gender statistics is often hindered by technical and resource constraints, particularly in developing countries, leading to pervasive gaps in gender data. This is especially true when it comes to issues such as violence against women, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and unpaid care and domestic work, which are important to measure but need to be well-resourced. Also at risk are emerging areas, such as gender and poverty, gender pay gaps and women’s participation in decision-making, where a lot more methodological work is needed. Barely more than 50 per cent of countries regularly produce gender statistics on power and decision-making. Percentages drop to 42 per cent for unpaid work, 41 per cent for violence against women and only 7 per cent for satellite accounts of household production, which helps to highlight how the economy is affected by women's unpaid work at home.

  • Lack of access to data and limited capacity of users to use gender statistics to inform polices

Not only are there gaps in gender statistics, but the data that is available is not shared and communicated in user-friendly formats. As a result, policymakers and other stakeholders are not able to use the data to inform evidence-based advocacy in decision-making. A vicious cycle then develops, whereby the low use of data to inform policy and advocacy leads to low demand, which in turn reduces the incentive to produce gender statistics.[1]

These challenges at the national level are often compounded by the lack of coordination at regional and global levels, particularly by development partners that provide support for statistical capacity-building. Building on UN Women’s unique normative, coordination and operational mandates, the programme aims to address these challenges through joined-up and coordinated actions at the national, regional and global levels. Read more about how we work.

SDG Monitoring

The 2030 Agenda cannot be achieved without quality data and a robust indicator framework. Yet, 80 per cent of the indicators for gender equality across the SDGs are lacking data. There are critical gaps in data coverage that must be filled if we are to successfully monitor the SDGs and ensure they are implemented for women and girls. At this time, the need to produce more relevant and accurate data, including gender-sensitive indicators, is greater than ever. Without more investment in gender statistics, our ability to monitor SDG implementation and to track progress on world commitments to gender equality and women’s empowerment will be compromised. The programme provides the roadmap for this essential work.

One aspect of this work is developing methodological standards for SDG indicators, which enables them to move from Tier III to Tier II. UN Women is the custodian agency to monitor three Tier III SDG indicators:   

  • Indicator 5.1.1: Whether or not legal frameworks are in place to promote, enforce and monitor equality and non‑discrimination on the basis of sex (with OECD Development Centre and World Bank);
  • Indicator 5.5.1: Proportion of seats held by women in (a) national parliaments and (b) local governments;
  • Indicator 5.c.1: Proportion of countries with systems to track and make public allocations for gender equality and women’s empowerment (gender budgeting).

To develop methodological standards for each of these indicators, UN Women and its partners piloted a set of guidelines and survey instruments, and held a series of consultations to seek feedback from countries to ultimately validate the approach and results. The results were then presented to the Inter-agency Expert Group on SDG Indicators (IAEG-SDGs) for approval and possible reclassification into Tier II. Indicators 5.5.1 and 5.c.1 have been successfully approved to Tier II category. For tier classifications see the IAEG-SDGS site.

Turning Promises into Action: Gender Equality in the 2030 Agenda (forthcoming)

Turning Promises into Action:Gender Equality in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDG report) is a new flagship report of UN Women that monitors the implementation of the SDGs from a gender perspective. As a source of high quality data and policy analysis, the report is a key reference and accountability tool to be used by governments, women’s organizations, the UN system and other stakeholders. The report will be launched in February 2018.

Gender data portal (forthcoming)

UN Women is developing a gender data portal that will be a one-stop shop for gender data, which will also monitor gender in the SDGs and follow the implementation of the programme. The portal, which plans to include interactive visualizations and data for statisticians and non-technical users alike, will be designed to serve policymakers, practitioners, researchers, data journalists and the general public with varying levels of digital literacy and engagement with gender statistics. The Gender data portal is scheduled to be launched in Fall 2018 at the UN World Data Forum. 

Thematic data briefs

One of the chief aims of UN Women’s Making Every Woman and Girl Count programme is to build knowledge and capacity on gender data. To do this, UN Women will produce a set of thematic briefs on gender statistics. The themes will be chosen depending on relevant debates, issues, and topics of events such as CSW and the HLPF.

[1] UNECE and World Bank Institute (2010). Developing Gender Statistics: A Practical Tool.


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Facts And Figures

  • 11 out 14 indicators in SDG 5 do not have accepted international standards for measurement and/or data collection by most countries is irregular
  • 41 per cent of countries regularly produce violence against women data
  • 15 per cent of countries have legislation that mandates specialized gender-based surveys.
  • 13 per cent of countries have a dedicated gender statistics budget.
Planet 50–50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality