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Office for Women
Attorney General's Department
Government of South Australia
Phone: +61 8 8 303 0961
Fax: +61 8 8303 0963

South Australian Government - Office for Women logo

Australian Workplace Innovation and Social Research Centre
Level 2, 230 North Terrace
The University of Adelaide
SA 5005

Telephone: +61 8 8313 3350

Gender Indicators and Gender Equity

Gender sensitive indicators support the development and evaluation of policies and programs designed to achieve greater gender equity in the context of gender sensitive analysis and gender mainstreaming initiatives of policy/programs and budgets.

Gender indicators 'enable us to assess where we stand and where we are going with respect to values and goals, and to evaluate specific programs and their goals'

The usefulness of gender indicators 'lies in their ability to point to changes in the status and roles of women and men over time, and therefore to measure whether gender equity is being achieved'
(Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) 1997)

More on why gender indicators are important

"Policies that do not recognise the different and unequal position of women in society tend to perpetuate and exacerbate gender inequalities. Gender statistics and indicators have an essential role in the elimination of gender blindness in the formulation of policies.

Statistics and indicators on the situation of women and men in all spheres of society are an important tool in promoting equality.

Gender statistics 'raise consciousness and provide an impetus for change, to provide a foundation for policies, programmes and projects and to monitor and evaluate such policies and measures'."
( Hedman, Perucci and Sundström 1996: 9).

"Governments that become aware of, and are publicly known for, a lack of gender equality in their countries, are more likely to carry out policies to reduce this inequality."
(Dijkstra and Hanmer 2000: 62).

"The utilisation of gender-sensitive indicators allows for effective monitoring and evaluation of project or programme activities."
(Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) 2001)

In the view of Dijkstra and Hanmer (2000:62), developing a measure of socio-economic gender inequality has three aims:

  1. to identify the extent of inequality at a certain point in time;
  2. to identify causes for inequality with a view to suggesting policies to reduce inequality; and
  3. to monitor the impact of these policies over time.

Statistics Sweden (2002) have identified the purpose of gender disaggregated statistics/data as being to:

  • raise consciousness, persuade policy makers and promote changes
  • provide ideas
  • provide an unbiased basis for policies and measures
  • monitor and evaluate policies and measures.

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About gender sensitive indicators

Gender-sensitive indicators demonstrate changes in gender relations in a given society over a period of time. They are used to assess progress in achieving gender equality by measuring changes in the status of women and men over a period of time. Gender-sensitive indicators may be used as a tool to assess the progress of a particular development intervention towards achieving greater gender equality.

As a measure of social change and the performance/effectiveness of government policy, gender-sensitive indicators can be described in terms of:

(1) the derived quality to be reached;

(2) the quantity of something to be achieved;

(3) the target group who is affected by or benefits from the program or project; and,

(4) the time frame envisaged for the achievement of the objectives (FAO 2001).

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About gender analysis

Gender Analysis is a systematic method for ensuring that gender considerations form part of the policy planning exercise. Its purpose is broader than equal opportunity, which has as a goal increasing women's participation in places where they are underrepresented. By contrast, the intent behind gender analysis is to draw attention to the ways in which all policies should be designed with gender in mind.

Gender analysis is essential in effectively developing and using gender indicators. Gender analysis helps to frame key policy questions about the roles of men and women and the relationship between them. The aim of such analysis is to formulate and develop interventions that are better targeted to meet both women's and men's needs and constraints.

Gender analysis refers to the variety of methods used to understand the relationships between men and women, their access to resources, their activities, and the constraints they face relative to each other. Gender analysis provides information that recognizes that gender, and its relationship with race, ethnicity, culture, class, age, disability, and/or other status, is important in understanding the different patterns of involvement, behaviour and activities that women and men have in economic, social and legal structures.

Analysis of the different situations of men and women can provide an understanding of the different impacts that legislation, cultural practices, policies, and programs can have on women and men.

Hedman, Perucci and Sundström (1996) stress the importance of developing statistics and indicators on the basis of an analysis of the problems and questions in society that policymakers and others have identified as important goals in the process of improving the situation of women and men. For data collection, this means that the production of gender statistics requires not only that all official data are collected by sex, but also that concepts and methods used in data collection and presentation adequately reflect gender issues in society' ( Hedman, Perucci and Sundström 1996: 42)

A number of important conceptual and methodological criteria have been identified to guide the development, selection and application of gender indicators and the data that inform them. These include:

  • Gender indicators need to have clearly defined principles of measurement, concepts, definitions and classifications:
  • Conventional concepts and methods used in data collection are often inadequate to reflect the realities of women and men; and,
  • As new policy concerns emerge new methods and conceptualisations of data collection are required (eg the use of time-use data in assessing the role of unpaid work).
  • Gender indicators need to be linked with policy goals.
  • Gender indicators need to be able to monitor progress over time.
  • Gender-disaggregated data needs to be of a high quality.

The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA 2000) argues that gender analysis is an essential component of policy making.

Gender analysis offers information to understand women's and men's access to and control over resources that can be used to address disparities, challenge systemic inequalities (most often faced by women), and build efficient and equitable solutions. The information gathered during the research stage of the analysis should make the differences between women and men explicit (using sex-disaggregated data) so that policies, programs and projects can build effective actions that promote equality. Since gender relations will change in each context and over time, a gender analysis should be done within each development initiative.

Gender analysis can also provide insights on how gender equality can be promoted within efforts for sustainable development to ensure maximum efficiency in pursuing development goals. To be most effective, it must be part of each step of a development initiative: from conception and design to implementation and evaluation. By being part of this process, gender analysis has already led to changes in strategies for development cooperation that previously did not meet the needs of women.

The Canadian Women's Bureau (Women's Bureau Canada 1997) has identified the importance of applying a gender analysis to the development of gender indicators and vice-versa:

Gender analysis is about collecting reliable gender-disaggregated information about the policy area under study, and understanding gender trends in the economy that might have an impact on a proposed policy, program or piece of legislation. It allows us to construct a better picture of the effects of a policy by looking at its potential impact on women and men. It is used to better inform decision-making at the outset to save time and money later.

There are a number of countries using Gender Analysis around the world that include the Governments of New Zealand and Norway and the United Nations, World Bank, and International Labour Organisation have issued gender analysis guidelines or statements. In its Federal Plan for Gender Equality (1995), the Government of Canada committed itself 'to ensuring that all future legislation and policies include, where appropriate, an analysis of the potential for different impacts on women and men'. At the local level, the Government of British Columbia requires Cabinet submissions to contain gender analyses, and has released gender analysis guidelines. Taking into account the differential impacts social programming can have on women and men is one of the 15 Principles to Guide Social Policy and Renewal listed in the March 1996 Ministerial Council report issued by the Premiers. The Provincial Advisory Councils on the Status of Women of New Brunswick and Newfoundland/Labrador have each published gender analysis guidelines (Women's Bureau Canada 1997).

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About gender mainstreaming

The development of a program of gender indicators can best be conceptualised as an essential and integral component of a strategy of gender mainstreaming. Gender mainstreaming aims to make 'gender equality...a central part of all...development interventions, including analyses, policy advice, advocacy, legislation, research and the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of programs and projects' (FAO 2001).

In 1995, at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, a global Platform for Action was adopted, and the UN endorsed the concept of gender mainstreaming as a strategy for the promotion of gender equality. Gender mainstreaming has been endorsed by the UN and has come to be the dominant policy approach in the EU.

Mainstreaming involves ensuring that gender perspectives and attention to the goal of gender equality are central to all activities including policy development, research, advocacy/ dialogue, legislation, resource allocation and planning, implementation and monitoring of programs and projects. Gender mainstreaming ensures that both women's and men's concerns and experiences are integral to the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of all legislation, policies and programs so that they both benefit equally and inequality is not perpetuated.

The development of more sophisticated gender disaggregated indicators is a central component of any gender mainstreaming strategy. International agencies in particular have recognized the crucial role of better information on gender differences through gender disaggregated data and research in order to successfully introduce gender mainstreaming into policy and to serve as a benchmark of progress (Breitenbach and Galligan, 2004: 83).

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International lessons

A wide range of international organisations have undertaken considerable work on the development and application of gender indicators:

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Other International indicators

Statistics Canada has undertaken considerable work in developing gender sensitive statistics. In October 1997 it published Economic Gender Equality Indicators . This report presents the results of a project commissioned by Federal-Provincial/Territorial Ministers Responsible for the Status of Women to develop a limited set of economic gender equality indicators. The Indicators are a selected set of benchmarks to reflect core, interrelated aspects of women's and men's economic lives. They include income from a variety of sources in addition to earnings (measured in money), unpaid as well as paid work (measured in time), and education and job-related training (time and attainment measures that also look at gender predominance in fields of study). The Economic Gender Equality Indicators were designed to contribute to public policy discussion on social indicators, an understanding of women's realities and the promotion of gender equality. The indicators developed are also applied to Canadian provinces. A less comprehensive version Economic Gender Equality Indicators 2000 was produced in 2000 including a report Women in Canada 2000 and training materials

The UK Government's Office of National Statistics collaborates with the Women and Equality Unit in the development of gender sensitive statistics. A major project has been the 'Key Indicators of Women's Position in Britain' project. The aim was to identify a set of key statistics that accurately and meaningfully map women's position relative to that of men across a wide range of areas, and draw together statistics from a wide range of sources to provide a comprehensive census and a reliable and comprehensive baseline against which future changes and improvements can be monitored. The review was multi-faceted, comprising: (i) a consultation of users, (ii) assessment of the production and dissemination official gender statistics, (iii) identification of official statistics that are disaggregated by gender, distinguishing between data collection and dissemination, and (iv) identification of which official statistics are not currently gender-disaggregated. The very substantive report Key Indicators of Women's Position in Britain (Dench et al 2002) was published in November 2002 and has been disseminated widely. A four- page research summary and a shorter 'key findings' summary have also been published. The study utilised a wide range of statistical sources, from regular large-scale surveys, such as the Labour Force Survey (LFS), to ad hoc surveys, for example on work-life balance initiatives and their impact. It is proposed to continually update this information through the following means:

  • quarterly updating of women's position in the labour market using the LFS. This is already available as the WEU Gender Briefing , published every February, May, August and November on the WEU website;
  • a regular update census, which will look at all key indicators and collect the most up-to-date information. Many key indicators are covered by regular official surveys, so it would be relatively straightforward to update them;
  • a fuller appraisal (in a few years' time) which would aim for a more comprehensive update, and would also explore whether the key indicators should be revised and/or extended, in line with changes in women's lives and society in general.

The Swedish Parliament in 1994 declared that gender disaggregation is to occur for all official statistics 'unless special reasons exist'. Statistics Sweden commissioned the influential booklet Engendering Statistics: A tool for Change (Hedman et al 1996). The Swedish Government has supported activities to develop gender statistics in numerous countries (32 in all) in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe.

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